Senate Intel Committee Pushes Declassification Vote to Next Week

The Senate intelligence committee has pushed back a vote to declassify its report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation and detention program to next week.

Chair of the committee Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “A couple of members want to spend more time with [torture report].” The exact date of the vote is still unclear, but it could come up as soon as Tuesday, April 1.

If the vote to declassify passes, the 6,000-plus-page Senate torture report will go to the White House for redaction procedures—a process that determines which pieces of the report goes public.

President Obama committed to making the report public and CIA Director John Brennan pledged “not…to stand in the way” of the release of the report.  But given the CIA’s clear conflict of interest, Human Rights First and other organizations sent a letter to President Obama urging him to direct White House staff to lead the declassification process.

“[The torture report] apparently documents that the CIA repeatedly lied to Congress, the Justice Department and the White House. It seems obviously inappropriate to permit the agency assessed in the report to decide what parts of it your Administration believes the American people should see,” the letter noted.

Human Rights First has been at the forefront of pushing for the release of the torture report with as few redactions as possible. With pressure mounting over the past few weeks, more supporters have come out to support declassification.

Even John Rizzo, former CIA chief legal officer and one of the architects of the torture program, has been making his rounds in the media to blast the CIA and call for declassification. In his USA Today column published late yesterday, Rizzo wrote:

The Senate report should be declassified and released pronto. … It is also said to be scathing in its criticism of the interrogation program and the people at the CIA who conceived and implemented it. Presumably, that includes me because I was its chief legal architect at the agency. So be it. Let it out, along with the CIA’s 122-page rebuttal…Americans deserve to see all of it and make their own judgments.

Check out the full list of supporters.

Releasing the torture report will allow us to understand the consequences of the CIA’s torture program and prevent our nation from returning to these ineffective and un-American practices. Help us continue the momentum by signing our petition.

Architect of Torture Program Blasts the CIA for Blocking Senate Investigation

In a Politico piece titled How the CIA Blew It, Former CIA Chief Legal Officer John Rizzo blasts the CIA for picking the wrong fight with Congress over the Senate intelligence committee’s investigation of the post-9/11 torture program.

“America’s spooks aren’t going rogue. They just picked a fight they couldn’t possibly win,” Rizzo writes.

At issue here are recent accusations of “possible crimes” by both the Senate intelligence committee and the CIA over access to the so-called “Panetta review,” an internal CIA document that reportedly summarizes the volumes of information made available to the committee.  On the one hand, the Senate intelligence committee accused the CIA of keeping them in the dark about the “Panetta review” and trying to get it back from them once they reviewed it. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the intelligence committee, says that the review was part of the 6 million-plus pages of documents given to them by the CIA. The CIA then claims that Senate intelligence committee staffers had no right to access it and, in fact, accessed it without authorization.

Rizzo, who is one of the architects of the torture program, sides with the Senate on this issue. “An even more fundamental question seems to me to be whether the committee was entitled to the ‘Panetta Report’ in the first place. The answer, clearly, is yes,” he writes.

This controversy comes over one year after the Senate intelligence committee finished drafting its 6,000-plus page report of the CIA’s torture program. Those who have read the report, including Senator Feinstein, say that the CIA torture program was far more widespread than we thought and ineffective at securing the information needed to stop terrorist attacks.  The Panetta review allegedly confirms key aspects of the Senate intelligence committee study, but contradicts the CIA’s official response to the study.  The CIA has refused to provide the committee with access to the Panetta review.

Soon after Senator Feinstein took to the Senate floor two weeks ago and accused the CIA of blocking their investigation efforts, more people came out in support of declassifying the Senate torture report.

President Obama says that he is “absolutely committed to declassifying that report as soon as it is completed.” Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora stated, “We have to understand facts of this ill-fated experiment with torture.”

John Rizzo also reiterated his support to declassify the report. He said on The Diane Rehm Show:

Obviously, I’ve not seen the report. I assume there are going to be things in there critical of my performance, my decisions…I believe that this report should come out. I’ve said that publicly…I think it needs to come out. I think the CIA’s detailed rebuttal needs to come out. I just think everything needs to get out on the record. Let people judge. Let people decide and move on.

We agree. Americans deserve the truth on torture. Far too often in recent years, the public discussion on torture has been driven by torture proponents—former officials who authorized torture after 9/11 but who have never conducted an actual interrogation in their lives. We need to change that.

This report has the potential to end the debate on torture and allow Americans to know how ineffective the torture program really was and prevent its return. That’s why Human Rights First has been at the forefront of the efforts in Congress and the White House to push for the release of the torture report.

Senator Feinstein committed to holding a vote in the Senate intelligence committee as early as this week to declassify the torture report. Join our call to declassify the report by signing our petition.

Senators Feinstein and Durbin Say It’s Time to #CloseGitmo

Just a few weeks ago, the Obama Administration announced that two detainees cleared for transfer will be sent home, signaling that the administration may be reinvigorating efforts to close the offshore detention facility, albeit not quickly enough. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) argue in an LA Times column that at this glacial pace, “the majority of Guantanamo detainees there today will have been held without trial for almost 15 years…It’s time to close Guantanamo.”

Closing Guantanamo is not the most complex process, compared to other issues the administration and Congress are dealing with today. There is already growing bipartisan support to close the facility. The process is politically complicated, but it’s not rocket science as long as Congress and the administration work together. And that’s why Human Rights First published Guantanamo: A Comprehensive Exit Strategy, a road map to close the facility.

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In Cairo, An Update from Brian Dooley

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters run from police in a street leading to Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo on August 14, 2013. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said at least 250 people were killed and over 5,000 injured in a police crackdown on two major protest camps held by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI        (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters run from police in a street leading to Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo on August 14, 2013. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said at least 250 people were killed and over 5,000 injured in a police crackdown on two major protest camps held by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

As Egyptian security forces crack down on Morsi supporters, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley is in Cairo meeting with human rights activists there. With Dooley’s help, we’re posting updates on the situation in Cairo on Twitter @humanrights1st and we’ve provided recommendations to the United States government on how to better promote human rights in Egypt. 

Here’s the latest from Dooley:

It’s nearly 7:00 PM here. Egyptian security forces have cleared the smaller sit-in at Nahda but there is still fighting at the larger encampment at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. Casualty estimates vary wildly. Morsi supporters are claiming 1000 dead and 10,000 wounded, including many women and children.  International media outlets report more than 100 fatalities, mostly (not all) men.

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When I started my Tumblr blog, #GETOFFMYBIKELANE!, I wasn’t expecting it to get big. One week and 4,000 visitors later, Fast Company featured my blog and I came on Huffpost Live to tell people to #GETOFFMYBIKELANE!

Watch the segment below.

Segment Info: Thousands of commuters use New York City’s bike lanes every day to move around the city. The problem? They’re not the only ones. One intrepid blogger took to Tumblr to call out the inconsiderate and tell them to #getoffmybikelane! Originally aired on August 2, 2013

TAKE ACTION: Urge the Pentagon to Stop Enriching Putin’s Arms Dealer

The Pentagon is buying over $1.1 billion worth of helicopters and spare parts from the same Russian state-run dealer that arms the brutal regime of Syrian President Assad. This purchase comes at the same time that the United States is arming and providing aid to the Syrian rebels.

Rosoboronexport has already shipped $4.9 billion in arms to the Assad regime, which has slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians. The only winners are Russian President Putin’s former KGB colleague Sergey Chemezov and others who run Rosoboronexport. They’ve received billions from Assad . . . and millions from American taxpayers.

Let’s end this contract once and for all. Urge Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to cancel the arms deal with Rosoboronexport.

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Photo Reveals CIA’s Response to the Senate Torture Report

What is CIA Director John Brennan holding in his hands? Marcy Wheeler reports that it’s the CIA’s response to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the post-9/11 CIA torture program.

The official White House photograph by Pete Souza is dated May 10. And yet two months later, we’re still waiting for the White House to engage the Committee on its report, though the CIA has now provided its response to the Committee.

The Senate Intelligence Committee adopted the 6,000 plus page report in December of last year. But the process to declassify it, which involves a review by the administration was delayed—partly because of the length and breadth of the report and Brennan’s appointment in March.

As part of the review process, agencies including the CIA have been invited to review and comment on the report. This raises concerns that the CIA, which has played a large role in shaping the torture debate including by editing the Zero Dark Thirty script, will significantly shape the official White House response.  In fact, leaks to the press highlighting the CIA’s response suggest that the Agency is prepared to fight the Committee on its findings tooth and nail.

Muckcracker notes that a Freedom of Information Act request has been filed for the CIA response to the Senate torture report—the very document in the photo.

In a joint letter to President Obama, Human Rights First and other groups urged the administration to provide an objective review of the report stating that the president has a responsibility to ensure that the Executive Branch response to the study are not driven by individuals who might be implicated in the CIA’s use of torture. Specifically, the joint letter asks the Obama Administration to independently review the study and to appoint a White House official to coordinate a single executive branch response.  That doesn’t appear to be happening, as all indications are showing that the CIA is driving this process.

To some extent, we already know what is in the report. Those who have read it—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John McCain (R-AZ) among many—have come out to say that torture did not save American lives nor lead to actionable intelligence. In essence, torture is ineffective.  Others, including Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), say the report documents how the CIA systematically mislead the Congress and Bush Administration about the torture program, which would explain why there’s so much misinformation regarding the role torture has played in stopping terrorist attacks.

Keeping the report classified, however, only allows torture proponents to continue citing secret knowledge of the CIA’s torture program in selling the claim that America should return to torture. Their argument: because torture saved American lives.  Senator Feinstein, who chairs the Intelligence Committee, should move forward to make public the study now that the CIA has weighed in.

Human Rights First is at the forefront of efforts to push the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Obama Administration to release the torture report. Releasing the report will allow Americans to get a clear picture of the torture program and therefore create national security policies that prevent abuses including the return to torture.

This blog was originally published by Human Rights First.