Open The Government Statement on the Release of the Senate Torture Report’s Executive Summary

Open The Government welcomes the long-overdue release of the Executive Summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s study of the CIA torture program. We were appalled by the 11th-hour attempt to intimidate Senator Feinstein and the Intelligence Committee out of releasing the report, and relieved that she resisted that pressure. The argument that government abuses cannot be revealed because of their severity is incompatible with the First Amendment, the rule of law, and accountable government.

As Senator Claire McCaskill said yesterday, this was “gut check time for our democracy.” Open The Government’s Executive Director, Dr. Patrice McDermott, stated, “the suppression of the report would have ended the last, best hope of ending the unjustified secrecy regarding CIA torture. Instead, we have taken a meaningful first step towards restoring oversight and democratic accountability.”

In order to complete that process, several more steps should occur in the near future:

1. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence should formally request declassification review,  eventual public release, and immediate dissemination throughout the Executive Branch of its full, over-6000 page study of the CIA torture program.

2. President Obama should end the designation of the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program as a Special Access Program, and formally repudiate the argument that former CIA prisoners’ memories of their abuse are classified.

3. The CIA should revise its classification guidance regarding the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program to reflect the declassification of the Executive Summary of the torture report. The revised classification guidance should be made public to the greatest extent possible, and should be used to conduct a declassification review regarding all documents filed with the Guantanamo military commissions, reports and transcripts from the CIA Inspector General’s investigations into the torture; the full Senate study; and other relevant government records.

4. Congress should pass legislation to ensure the abuses described in the torture report can never be repeated.

5. As Open The Government and 19 coalition partners wrote in August, President Obama should declassify and release the CIA Inspector General’s Report into the agency’s improper monitoring of its oversight committee, and request CIA Director John Brennan’s resignation.

Dr. McDermott and Katherine Hawkins, Open The Government’s national security fellow, are available for comment at 202-332-6736.

Ms. Hawkins, whose email address is khawkins@openthegovernment.org, has researched and written extensively regarding U.S. detainee treatment and secrecy since 2004. In the coming days, she will be doing an in-depth examination of the factual revelations in the report, and the public information that has been redacted at the CIA’s insistence.

Further reading:

Open The Government’s Shadow Report to the Committee Against Torture

What The CIA is Trying to Hide

Disappearing People and Disappearing the Evidence: The Deeper Signifcance of the SSCI Report

James Madison Award Accceptance Speech by Dr. Patrice McDermott, March 16, 2011.

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