We heard late last week that the release of a heavily-redacted portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture would be released “in a matter of days,” but it appears that the Obama administration is still trying to get the release postponed — and therefore eliminated entirely.
Secretary of State John Kerry personally phoned Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Friday morning to ask her to delay the imminent release of her committee’s report on CIA torture and rendition during the George W. Bush administration, according to administration and Congressional officials.
Kerry was not going rogue — his call came after an interagency process that decided the release of the report early next week, as Feinstein had been planning, could complicate relationships with foreign countries at a sensitive time and posed an unacceptable risk to U.S. personnel and facilities abroad. Kerry told Feinstein he still supports releasing the report, just not right now.
“What he raised was timing of report release, because a lot is going on in the world — including parts of the world particularly implicated — and wanting to make sure foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing,” an administration official told me. “He had a responsibility to do so because this isn’t just an intel issue — it’s a foreign policy issue.”
But those concerns are not new, and Kerry’s 11th-hour effort to secure a delay in the report’s release places Feinstein in a difficult position: She must decide whether to set aside the administration’s concerns and accept the risk, or scuttle the roll-out of the investigation she fought for years to preserve.
Hill staffers and human rights advocates saw the Kerry call as a stunning reversal by an administration that has publicly supported the report’s release for months. For Senate Republicans, who have warned about the potential fallout for more than a year, the administration is belatedly coming around to agree with their position.
Really? Are those staffers really that naive? Obama hasn’t supported the release of the report, for crying out loud. Oh, he’s said publicly that he thinks it should be released, but he’s done everything possible behind the scenes to either prevent it from happening or to make the report so unintelligible with redactions that it would water down its impact. Why do they think he’s been sending his chief of staff up to the Hill to argue over this? Andrew Sullivan pretty much nails his reaction to this:
First, the Obama administration set up a white-wash, in the form of the Durham investigation; then they sat back as the CIA tried to sabotage the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; then Obama’s chief of staff prevented the report’s publication for months, by insisting on redactions of the report to the point of it being near-unintelligible; and now, with mere days to go, the administration suddenly concludes that a factual accounting of this country’s descent into barbarism poses “an unacceptable risk” to US personnel abroad. Now, after this report has been stymied for two years; now, just days before its scheduled publication; now, because if the administration can prevent its publication this month, they know full well that the Republicans who will control the committee in January will bury the evidence of grotesque and widespread torture by the US for ever.
Of course this complicates relationships with foreign countries; of course it guts any remaining credibility on human rights the US has; of course the staggering brutality endorsed by the highest echelons in American government will inflame American enemies and provoke disbelief across the civilized world. But that’s not the fault of the report; it’s the fault of the torture regime and its architects, many of whom have continued to operate with total impunity under president Obama.
Make no mistake about it: if this report is buried, it will be this president who made that call, and this president who has allowed this vital and minimal piece of accountability to be slow-walked to death and burial, and backed the CIA every inch of the way.
Obama has been on the side of the CIA and against any possible accountability for torture from the very moment he took office. He appointed one of the chief public defenders of torture, John Brennan, to head the CIA, for crying out loud — and the Senate approved him! He still hasn’t fired Brennan for spying on the Senate staffers doing the investigation for the report or for lying about doing so. Just like he didn’t fire James Clapper for lying directly to Congress in sworn testimony about the cell phone metadata mining program. Aside from signing an executive order ending torture — theoretically; I have little doubt it’s still going on and there are many reports to back that up — his record on torture has been absolutely appalling.