Torture Enablers Spin Unreleased Senate Report

December 9, 2014

By Peter Hart via FAIR

After many years of delay, a summary of a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the CIA’s torture practices is set to be released this week–perhaps as soon as tomorrow. But for now, some elite media are deciding to give the CIA’s torture defenders a chance to spin a report that we still haven’t seen.

On the CBS Sunday show Face the Nation (12/7/14), host Bob Schieffer explained that

Republicans on the committee and the CIA refute almost all of the Democrats’ conclusions and say the release of the report will have a chilling effect on intelligence-gathering and will endanger lives.

CBS correspondent Bob Orr reiterated that this was how Republicans and CIA defenders were going to react:

They are going to say, look, we tried to stay within the bounds of the law in the shadow of 9/11, when things were very, very tough. We made some mistakes, but in the end real intelligence was had.

After that, CBS introduced its next guest: former CIA director Michael Hayden. He says the CIA did not lie to Congress, that torture did yield valuable intelligence and that there could be severe repercussions from the report being made public: “This will be used by our enemies to motivate people to attack Americans in American facilities overseas.”

All of this “prebuttal” is curious, to say the least; the report will be released in a matter of days, so why the need to give defenders of torture a platform to excuse themselves in advance?

The New York Times  (12/7/14) brought readers the most exhaustive (and exhausting) account, under the headline “Bush and CIA Ex-Officials Rebut Torture Report.” The paper’s Peter Baker says that “former President George W. Bush’s team has decided to link arms with former intelligence officials and challenge its conclusions,” and it reports that the

defense of the program has been organized by former CIA leaders like George J. Tenet and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, two former directors, and John E. McLaughlin, a former deputy CIA director who also served as acting director.

“Once the release occurs, we’ll have things to say and will be making some documents available that bear on the case,” Mr. McLaughlin said Sunday.

But, of course, there’s no waiting around for the release of the report; as the Times notes, Hayden was on television prebutting the Senate’s findings, and Jose Rodriguez, who helped run CIA interrogations, had an op-ed in the Washington Post (12/5/14). The Times granted anonymity to two officials to assure us that the White House rejected the idea that anyone at the CIA had misled them.

The fact that former CIA officials might object to a report critical of the CIA isn’t that surprising. But these accounts, along with the stories stoking fears about attacks on US facilities as payback for the Senate report, serve to obscure the more important findings about CIA torture and deception: As Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel, 4/2/14) has noted, there is plenty of evidence of the CIA lying to Congress about torture. Wheeler (2/22/10) has also shown that Michael Hayden has lied to Congress too, which is something to keep in mind as journalists bring him on television to discuss whether or not the agency ever misled anyone.

Photo: Department of Defense