Washington, Dec 25: The Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation program and the spy agency’s official response clash on almost every aspect of the long-secret operation, including the brutality and effectiveness of its methods and the agency’s secret dealings with the Bush White House, Congress and the media. Both reports largely agree on one major CIA failure: The agency’s mismanagement of the now-shuttered program.
The 525-page summary from the Senate Intelligence Committee paints a chaotic landscape of bureaucratic dysfunction, showing an agency unprepared to take control of prisoners, unqualified field interrogators who overstepped their legal authority and CIA bosses ignorant about exactly how many detainees were warehoused in their overseas prisons. CIA oversight, the Senate committee found, “was deeply flawed throughout the program’s duration.”
The CIA agrees in its official response that “the agency made serious missteps in the management and operation of the program.” But it said the breakdowns came in the program’s early days and that internal changes corrected much of the disarray before President George W. Bush ordered the “black site” prisons emptied in 2006. The divide over the depth of the CIA’s management failures reflects a longstanding history of conflict between the agency and its critics over how mistakes should be corrected — and whether reforms should come from within or be forced from outside.
The committee’s chairwoman, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said the panel aimed to “ensure coercive interrogation practices are not used by our government again.” The agency has proposed a series of changes that would more tightly monitor its covert action programs, but CIA Director John Brennan has been less clear about whether the agency would ever again use interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama calls torture.
“We are not contemplating at all getting back into the detention program,” Brennan said at a recent news conference. But he added that the agency would “defer to the policymakers.”
The most glaring human evidence of mismanagement cited by the committee is its description of the agency’s wrongful detention of at least 26 prisoners and CIA officials’ inability to account for 44 detainees held in one overseas prison facility. The report cites the prison only as “Detention Site Cobalt,” but former US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive material identified it as the agency’s now-abandoned dungeon in Afghanistan known as the “Salt Pit.”
The Senate report cites the high-profile case of Khalid Al-Masri, a Lebanese man living in Germany who was grabbed in 2003 by Macedonian authorities and handed over to US officials on erroneous suspicions of terrorist ties.
Al-Masri was flown to the Salt Pit, where he was subjected to abusive interrogation tactics and held for months until his captors turned him loose on an Albanian road in April 2004.