Part of the CIA's response to today's Senate torture report is to claim that none of them were interviewed for the study. Former CIA officials George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, John McLaughlin and Albert McCalland teamed up to claim that the CIA's interrogation methods save lives in an op-ed piece at The Wall Street Journal. Here's how they describe what went down, or failed to go down:
Astonishingly, the staff avoided interviewing any of us who had been involved in establishing or running the program, the first time a supposedly comprehensive Senate Select Committee on Intelligence study has been carried out in this way.
The excuse given by majority senators is that CIA officers were under investigation by the Justice Department and therefore could not be made available. This is nonsense. The investigations referred to were completed in 2011 and 2012 and applied only to certain officers. They never applied to six former CIA directors and deputy directors, all of whom could have added firsthand truth to the study. Yet a press account indicates that the committee staff did see fit to interview at least one attorney for a terrorist at Guantanamo Bay.
We can only conclude that the committee members or staff did not want to risk having to deal with data that did not fit their construct. Which is another reason why the study is so flawed.
But what the report actually says in a footnote is very different. The report claims that the CIA told them they would not "compel" CIA employees to cooperate with interviews due to the Department of Justice investigations. Here's the footnote below:
So who to believe, here? It's helpful to look at a previous spat between the CIA and Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein for some guidance. Way back in the spring there was a big fight between the two of them where Feinstein accused the CIA of snooping on Senate staffers who were preparing this report. Though the CIA denied it, they eventually had to eat their words. It turned out to be true. They had secretly searched the computers the Senate staffers were using to prepare the report and removed many documents.
According to Feinstein, the big point of conflict was that the Senate staff had somehow gotten access to the CIA's own internal evaluation of its interrogation practices. Known as the Panetta Review (after then CIA Director Leon Panetta), the report came to some critical conclusions that matched the Senate's conclusions. The CIA did not want the Senate to have access to the report, which Feinstein claims contradicts some of their defenses of their interrogation. The surveillance scandal revolved around access to this internal report.
So if the CIA engaged in secret surveillance against the Senate staff because it didn't want them to have access to its own interviews with its own employees and its own analysis, perhaps we should greet with skepticism any claims that they would have been more than happy to sit down for a chat for this report.
The site former CIA officials set up to defend their interrogation practices is now live. Behold CIASavedLives.com.