WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation programme and the spy agency’s official response clash on almost every aspect of the long-secret operation, including the brutality and effectiveness of its methods and the agency’s secret dealings with the Bush White House, Congress and the media. Both reports largely agree on one major CIA failure: the agency’s mismanagement of the now-shuttered programme.
The 525-page summary from the Senate Intelligence Committee paints a chaotic landscape of bureaucratic dysfunction, showing an agency unprepared to take control of terrorist prisoners, unqualified field interrogators who overstepped their legal authority and CIA bosses ignorant about exactly how many detainees were warehoused in their overseas prisons. CIA oversight, the Senate committee found, “was deeply flawed throughout the programme’s duration”.
The CIA agrees in its official response that “the agency made serious missteps in the management and operation of the programme”.
But it said the breakdowns came in the programme’s early days and that internal changes corrected much of the disarray before President George W Bush ordered the “black site” prisons emptied in 2006.
The divide over the depth of the CIA’s management failures reflects a long-standing history of conflict between the agency and its critics over how mistakes should be corrected – and whether reforms should come from within or be forced from outside.
The committee’s chairwoman, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, said the panel aimed to “ensure coercive interrogation practices are not used by our government again”. The agency has proposed a series of changes that would more tightly monitor its covert action programmes, but CIA Director John Brennan has been less clear about whether the agency would ever again use interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama calls torture.
“We are not contemplating at all getting back into the detention programme,” Brennan said at a recent news conference. But he added that the agency would “defer to the policymakers”.
The most glaring human evidence of mismanagement cited by the committee is its description of the agency’s wrongful detention of at least 26 prisoners and CIA officials’ inability to account for 44 detainees held in one overseas prison facility.