WASHINGTON — A controversial torture report by the Senate Intelligence Committee paints a pattern of CIA deception about the effectiveness of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation methods used on terror suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to leaked findings. The committee said it will ask the Justice Department to investigate how the material was published.
The McClatchy news service late Thursday published what it said are the voluminous, still-classified review's 20 findings. It concludes that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" failed to produce valuable intelligence; the CIA misled the Bush administration, Congress and the public about the value of the harsh treatment; the agency employed unauthorized techniques on detainees and improperly detained others; and it never properly evaluated its own actions.
Both the CIA's interrogation techniques and confinement conditions "were brutal and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers."
The reported findings are consistent with what senators have detailed about the investigation since its 2009 inception and with what numerous news reports, human rights organizations and various governmental and non-governmental studies have suggested in the decade since the CIA's program started to coming to light. President Barack Obama has likened the harsh interrogations to torture, but the spy agency defends its actions and says much in the Senate committee's report is inaccurate.
The committee voted last week to declassify the summary and conclusions of the 6,600-page review and is now waiting for the Obama administration to censor material sensitive to national security.
The panel's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said an investigation into how the findings were published was underway. The two pages of findings published by McClatchy did not include the names of any U.S. government employees or terror detainees, locations of secret CIA prisons or anything else that might threaten national security. They also did not indicate how or why the committee reached its conclusions.
"If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted," Feinstein said. "The committee is investigating this unauthorized disclosure, and I intend to refer the matter to the Department of Justice."
James Asher, McClatchy's Washington bureau chief, said the news service was disappointed that Feinstein might seek a Justice Department investigation of its journalism. "We believe that Americans need to know what the CIA might have done to detainees and who is responsible for any questionable practices, which is why we have vigorously covered this story," Asher said in a statement.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd declined to address the publication of the findings.
"Given the report remains classified, we are unable to comment," Boyd said. He said the CIA was committed to carrying out an "expeditious classification review" of the parts of the report the Senate committee wants to make public. He reiterated, however, that the spy agency disagreed with several areas of the report.
The committee and the CIA are embroiled in a related dispute concerning the production of the report, with each side accusing the other of illegal snooping. The Justice Department is reviewing competing criminal complaints.
Given the ongoing tensions, Feinstein has appealed to President Barack Obama for the White House to head the declassification process for the torture report. The Obama administration up to now has said the CIA will take the lead in blacking out sections of the report that might reveal national security secrets, in consultation with other agencies of the executive branch.
The CIA has a "clear conflict of interest," Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a letter to Obama Friday.
In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Feinstein and Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a fellow Democratic member of the committee, said the public release of almost 500 pages of the report is "the best way to ensure that this program of secret detention and coercive interrogation never happens again."
"It will also serve to uphold America's practice of admitting wrongdoing and learning from its mistakes," they said.
The senators sought to answer two of the main criticisms of the report from former CIA officials and others: that its conclusions were predetermined and that it didn't include direct interviews with CIA officials.
Calling the report "fact-based," Feinstein and Rockefeller said almost every sentence in the report is attributed to CIA cables, internal notes, emails, testimony and other documents.
They acknowledged that Justice Department reviews of the spy agency's program meant top CIA managers, lawyers, counterterrorism personnel, analysts and interrogators didn't have to speak to the committee. But they said Senate investigators used transcripts from more than 100 interviews conducted by internal CIA auditors and other agency officials that took place while the harsh interrogations were still ongoing or shortly after they ended.