The White House is insisting it wants the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its report on CIA torture practices, despite a report that Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to scuttle it. (Internal contradictions may come as no surprise from an administration that couldn’t decide whether or not it was at war.)
According to Bloomberg View, Kerry “personally phoned” panel chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and asked her to kill the release. Bloomberg further reported that Kerry “was not going rogue”:
“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.”
The “timing” question may have been related to a failed U.S. rescue attempt in Yemen, which left two hostages dead—one an American photojournalist. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told CNN over the weekend that U.S. agencies and allies believe the report would “cause violence and deaths.”
But White House officials are now loudly proclaiming their support for releasing the report. “The president has been clear that he wants the executive summary of the Committee’s report to be declassified as expeditiously as possible, and we welcomed the news from the Committee that they plan to do so next week,” a National Security Council spokeswoman told Politico. “The precise timing is up to Senator [Dianne] Feinstein and the Committee.”
Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the Obama administration “strongly supports the release of this declassified summary of the report.”
“Our Congress issued this report, and the Obama administration strongly supported its declassification, in that spirit,” the State Department declared in a memo.
Sen. Ron Wyden, who has long urged the committee to disclose the report, released a weary-sounding statement regarding the Bloomberg report: “It is not surprising that members of the administration are raising an objection at the 11th hour, because there have been objections at every other hour.”
“After five years of investigation and nine months of negotiations with the executive branch, it is long past time for the Intelligence Committee’s report on the use of torture and coercive interrogation by the CIA to come to light,” Wyden said.
The report is a 500-page summary of a 6,700-page full report, likely with much information redacted. It is expected to be critical of the CIA’s interrogation methods.
“We tortured some folks,” Obama admitted bluntly last summer.
Feinstein has said that the practices revealed in the report undermine “societal and constitutional values that we are very proud of,”and that “Anybody who reads this is going to never let this happen again.”
And for Feinstein, the clock is ticking to release the report. Her time as chairwoman will soon expire, and the Republican slated to replace her is unlikely to push for the report’s release.
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush bristled about the report to CNN, saying, “We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA—these are patriots. Whatever the report says, if it diminished their contributions to our country, it is way off-base.”