After the release on Tuesday of a 500-page report illustrating in extreme, if often redacted, detail what Senator Dianne Feinstein referred to as the ‘ineffective, misleading, mismanaged, and brutal' interrogation program run by the CIA during the Bush administration, senior officials from across the US government have given their opinions on the report and its veracity.
President Barack Obama threw his support behind the release of the summary written by the Democrat-led Senate Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Senator Feinstein. He also agreed with the report's version of events, saying that the methods the CIA had employed in its "Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation" program were contrary to American values.
"Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today's report can help us leave these techniques where they belong, in the past," Obama added, saying that no harsh interrogation methods would take place on his watch, and that these techniques did more harm than good to American interests abroad.
The CIA was defensive of its practices, acknowledging mistakes in its program but maintaining that it had "saved thousands of American lives," according to former director George Tennet.
The Republicans issued their own report, which accuses the Democrat-led review of cherry-picking evidence to reach a foregone conclusion.
"Claims included in this report that assert the contrary are simply wrong," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a joint statement. The two also reiterated earlier claims made by Republicans that releasing the information would create "serious consequences" for national security.
Two other Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Jim Risch, called publishing the report "reckless and irresponsible."
Republican Senator John McCain, on the other hand, praised the report. McCain was himself a victim of torture at the hands of the Vietnamese in the 1960s, and argued that Americans deserved to know the truth about the program and that such techniques are ineffective at gathering useful information.
'Never a good time'
Senator Feinstein dismissed concerns that revealing the committee's findings would be dangerous for Americans abroad, saying that there is "never a good time" to talk about this kind of information, and that rather than endangering America, it shows that the US is a nation that can be open about its mistakes and learn from them.
Several rights groups have called for those involved to be held accountable. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an opinion piece in the New York Times that Obama should issue pardons to those involved, to make it clear that their actions were criminal. Indeed, the report does accuse CIA employees of stepping outside the bounds of the law on several occasions.
Ben Emerson, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, whose opinion was called upon for the report, stated that senior Bush administration officials who planned and authorized any crimes must be prosecuted, as well as CIA and other U.S. government officials who committed torture.
"As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice," Emmerson said.
es/an (AP, AFP, Reuters)