‘Inflammatory’ C.I.A. report on torture polarizes D.C.

By Mellyssa de Paiva
Staff Writer

photo of the CIA floor
Photo: New York Daily News

In a not-so-surprising turn of events, the recent C.I.A report on the usage, and most importantly the efficiency, of the “enhanced interrogation methods,” also known commonly as torture tactics, has caused quite the commotion amongst politicians on both sides of the aisle.

While the Senate Intelligence Committee report released in December is hardly news for many D.C. insiders and close observers, the idea that intelligence gathering was in any way made better by means of torture and deceit has been called ludicrous for years. It has brought what is quite arguably one of the most difficult and hot topics to the forefront of political discussion.

Partisanship aside, the report is nothing if not gruesome. Extremely detailed, the report gives a grotesque account of some of a number of the techniques that the C.I.A. used on terrorism suspects. Prisoners were subjected to everything from sleep deprivation for a week to being told that they would be killed and even under consent and supervision of C.I.A.’s medical staff, subjected to rectal feeding or rectal hydration —  which was described by The NYT  as “a technique that the C.I.A.’s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert total control over the detainee.”

Another stirring portion of the report comes from the matter of  Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a key mender of Al-Qaeda and the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks. C.I.A. medical staff members described the extreme conditions of Mohammed’s interrogation, which included a series of waterboarding sessions,  decried as  “near drownings.”

Yet the debates over the report, which points to a number of flaws and violations of just about any and all international treaties in the matters of war and imprisonment the U.S. has ever signed, including the historic Geneva Convention, are far from being about the actual report, but instead focus on a partisan fight over the actions taken by the C.I.A during the Bush era.

The report, which is about 1,000 pages in length, is known as the Panetta Review, after Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, who procured it in 2009. Still mostly classified, the Panetta Review is now central to eminent battle over the Intelligence Committee’s conclusions in the matter of torture and its efficacy in the eyes of the american government.

The report was originally presented last month to the committee. Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote to President Obama asking for the committee’s report back.

This comes as a result of Congress having since changed hands, as the committee is now controlled by Republicans who, like Mr. Burr, completely oppose the committee’s investigation, calling it a “partisan effort to discredit the C.I.A. and the Bush administration.”

Republicans and Democrats alike are battling for or against the report, and in the end very little is actually being said on the fact that many of the horrors described by the report are clear violations of American ideals and laws, broken in torturing Al Qaeda suspects, who in the end gave very little useful information to the C.I.A.

The C.I.A. has at this point both blocked the Panetta Review’s release, under the Freedom of Information Act, and publicly distanced itself from the report’s findings, calling it an “incomplete” work.