Two weeks have passed since Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) gave her stunning speech on the floor of the Senate accusing the CIA of breaking the law, violating the Constitution, and intimidating her staffers. The outburst was part of a long-simmering struggle over a Senate Intelligence Committee report about the so-called interrogation techniques that the CIA used on suspected terrorists during the Bush years — and one of the strongest indications yet that the CIA will do its damnedest to cover up evidence of what was clearly torture.
I've previously made the point that the CIA cannot possibly be assumed to be a disinterested party on this issue. Because torture is a crime under U.S. law, it is manifestly in the spy organization's self-interest to prevent the release of the torture report, lest it expose CIA officers to prosecution. On that basis alone, the CIA cannot be trusted in the slightest.
But there are other, more concrete reasons to believe the CIA's credibility is shot: Third-party reports that looked closely at public-record information and concluded that the CIA had misled investigators in a big way.
Katherine Hawkins and Alka Pradhan, writing at Al Jazeera, note that they had found "major inaccuracies in the information that the CIA provided the Department of Justice about the torture program." The CIA told the DOJ that the intelligence it acquired through its "enhanced" interrogation techniques helped prevent another 9/11-style attack, but that's not quite true, according to Hawkins and Pradhan:
The CIA misled the Justice Department. They told the [Office of Legal Counsel] that it was only after subjecting Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah to "enhanced" techniques that he "identified [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks" and provided information that led to the detention of José Padilla in May 2003. As detailed in the task force's report, this chronology is false. Abu Zubaydah identified Mohammed as the September 11 mastermind during FBI interrogation long before the CIA was authorized to torture him in late 2002 — and Padilla was actually detained in May 2002, before the CIA tortured Abu Zubaydah. Public record evidence also contradicts the CIA's claim that its "enhanced" interrogation of Mohammed and several other detainees led to the discovery of a plot to fly hijacked airliners into a skyscraper in Los Angeles and the capture of a 17-member terrorist cell tasked with carrying out the attack. [Al Jazeera]
There we have it, additional confirmation that the most cynical possible interpretation of the CIA's actions is probably the correct one. Namely, that the torture program was an egregious and completely pointless violation of international law, and that the CIA has been trying to cover up that humiliating and dangerous truth with deceit and intimidation.
Of course, we can't be 100 percent sure about this. Releasing the Intelligence Committee report would clear up these uncertainties at a stroke, and we would have no need to speculate. Which is why every day the CIA continues to fight against its release makes the cynical interpretation more likely.
As Duncan Black has said, "Congress sucks, but they're the democracy part of our democracy." And nothing less than that is at stake as the CIA continues to intimidate and defy the Senate. If lawmakers want to hold up their end of the bargain, they can release the report, now.