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Accountability & transparency

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

The Senate Intelligence Committee approved on Dec. 13, after three and a half years of research, its “Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation.” But “We The People” can't read it yet. It's still classified.

More than 6,000 pages long, purportedly with details of how each CIA “detainee” was interrogated and the information they provided, it now goes to the White House and the executive branch for review and comment.

We already do have, however, a stingingly chilling glimpse of the report by the chair of the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on the day it was issued, shrouded in secrecy aside from her comments.

“I strongly believe that the creation of long-term, clandestine ‘black sites' (CIA secret prisons around the world after 9/11) and the use of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques' (the plain word, senator, is torture) were terrible mistakes. The majority of the committee agrees.”

President Obama insists that he ended U.S. torture and renditions soon after taking office, but he has continued renditions that remain classified. We don't know who gets sent where and for what purpose. No wonder our re-elected commander-in-chief always insists on “looking forward” rather than back and insisting on investigating what a number of American constitutional lawyers and reporters, including this one, have documented as war crimes under international treaties we have signed and our own anti-torture laws.

I admire the emphasis with which Feinstein speaks in her additional statements about the report uncovering “startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation programs” and that it “raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight” (all of which Obama has ignored). I have no confidence in her rosy prediction of its great benefit to U.S. citizens and the world.

One Republican senator intensely interested in the Intelligence Committee report is John McCain, R-Ariz., who was continually tortured while a prisoner in North Vietnam.

In a letter to fellow members of the committee, McCain emphasized why the Senate report must be made public:

“At a moment when our country is once again debating the efficacy and morality of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation practices,' this report has the potential to set the record straight once and for all. What I have learned confirms for me ... that the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners is not only wrong in principle and a stain on our country's conscience, but also an ineffective and unreliable means of gathering evidence.”

He continues: “Our enemies may act without conscience, but we do not. It is indispensable to our success in this war that those we ask to fight it know that in the discharge of their dangerous responsibilities to our country, they are never expected to forget that they are Americans ... .”

As one of many examples of how the CIA renditions — which involve snatching terrorism suspects off foreign streets — have involved other nations, consider a Dec. 13 story from the New York Times: “A German who was mistaken for a terrorist and abducted nine years ago won a measure of redress when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his rights had been violated and confirmed his account that he had been seized by the CIA, brutalized and detained for months in Afghanistan.”

Nat Hentoff is an authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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