WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Thursday to declassify part of a report that details the controversial interrogation and detention methods deployed by the CIA against terror suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
With the vote, which occurred in a closed meeting of the intelligence committee, pressure now shifts to the CIA and White House to swiftly vet the report for anything that may compromise national security and publicly release what is perhaps the most definitive account of actions taken by the intelligence community following the attack on U.S. soil.
"The purpose of this review was to uncover the facts behind this secret program, and the results were shocking," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the intelligence committee. The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen."
The intelligence community has bristled at the prospect of the release of the Senate report, which was written by the Intelligence committee's Democratic staff and, as some members the Senate panel note, did not include direct interviews of CIA officials, contract personnel, or Bush administration officials.
Richard Burr, R-N.C. a member of the panel, called the report "flawed and biased" but ultimately voted in favor of declassifying it.
"I had hoped that the authors of the report would ensure that the American public was provided facts, not fiction," Burr said. "I am extremely disappointed in the flawed and biased results of their work."
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that government officials who reviewed the 6,300 page report said the most troubling part was not the details of detainee abuse, but the discrepancies between the statements of senior CIA officials and lower-level employees directly involved. Officials said the CIA's ability to obtain value intelligence "had little, if anything, to do with the so-called 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden," according to the Post.
President Obama and other critics of some of the controversial interrogation methods used by the CIA have called the use of some techniques, such as waterboarding, a violation of laws prohibiting torture. After taking office, Obama banned the practice.
White House press secretary Jay Carney noted ahead of the vote on Thursday that Obama has long made clear that he wants the report declassified so the public can see it. But Carney said that Obama didn't have a deadline for publishing it.
"He would expect that the actions that are necessary to declassify a document like that be conducted in all due haste," Carney said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters before the vote that Obama could declassify the report "like that" snapping her fingers for emphasis.
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of Brennan Center for Justice's liberty and national security program at New York University, said there is no reason why the White House shouldn't immediately declassify the report. She also expressed skepticism that Americans will see a full picture of the committee's findings when the redacted 400-page summary of the findings are eventually released.
"The White House knows what's in the report," Goitein said. "What the CIA did is not news to them. They provided all the documents that the Senate committee used. It's their documents, it's their information."