US fears aftermath of releasing CIA torture report

US fears aftermath of releasing CIA torture report
Sat Aug 9, 2014 11:43:29

An internal US intelligence memo has warned against the release of a Senate report on CIA’s torture tactics in the interrogation of suspected terrorist from Muslim nations, insisting that the move could further inflame anti-American feelings in the Mideast and lead to potentially violent street protests and threats to US embassies and personnel.

The eight-page memo by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) is being used by some in the US intelligence community to argue in favor of holding the line against Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s demands to release a more complete version of the report’s 480-page summary.

The memo went to the White House late last month but, according to administration officials, it played no role in the redactions to the report that Feinstein is objecting to.

“The Mideast is a tinderbox right now and this could be the spark that ignites quite a fire,” said one US intelligence official who was briefed on the findings.

That concern was echoed Friday by a former top US intelligence official who helped oversee the interrogation program.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out if you release a report like this at a time when terrorism is surging all over the Mideast you are handing the other side a recruitment tool,” said John McLaughlin, a former CIA deputy director, as cited in a Yahoo News report.

“It’s blindingly obvious,” he emphasized.

But Senate committee officials have countered that the intelligence community’s concerns are overblown and that the State Department has already taken steps to guard against any potential protests by ramping up security at US embassies.

The memo, with its stark warnings about potential violence, is the latest development in a struggle between Feinstein’s committee and the CIA over how many details should be made public about the agency’s use of “enhanced interrogation” — including the near drowning technique known as waterboarding — of some terror suspects.

The torture techniques were authorized by the Bush administration in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Intelligence sources familiar with the report say it graphically describes — in some cases, with grisly details — the harsh tactics that agency officers and contractors used for weeks at a time to try to get top suspects like Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to talk.

The report also recounts the death of an Afghan suspect after he was shackled and left half naked in freezing temperatures in an agency interrogation facility known as “the Salt Pit” in 2002.

The committee accuses CIA officials of misrepresenting the program to Congress and the Justice Department, claiming it yielded important intelligence about potential terror plots that were actually learned elsewhere, the sources said.

Another charge is that the agency undercounted the number of detainees who were subjected to torture methods, asserting in 2006 it was no more than 100, leaving out about 20 others who received similar rough treatment in Afghanistan.

When the intelligence committee approved the report last April, Feinstein said “the results were shocking” and that the report “exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation.”

“This will be an ugly story when it comes out,” agrees one US intelligence official familiar with the findings of the report.

“The memo notes that the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was a flashpoint for violent extremists and played a prominent role in their propaganda,” said the official. But the official acknowledged that the memo cited no hard intelligence about the likelihood of demonstrations if the report is released. “There are a lot of ‘could’ves’ in there,” the official said.

But it’s not clear now when, or how much of, the Senate report will see the light of day. The intelligence community provided a partially redacted summary of the full 6,200-page report to Feinstein’s panel last Friday, and Obama administration officials had been bracing for it to be made public this week.


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