At long last, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved 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.
Over 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. This may well take months, and only then will the Intelligence Committee decide how much of it we can see.
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."
Feinstein's statement does not mention that the Bush-Cheney torture policy served for years as a prime recruiting tool for terrorists against evil America as it was continually exposed by U.S. human rights organizations and reporters documenting its use by the CIA as well as other American agencies.
In the current courts of several of our allies, moreover, investigations are still under way charging CIA agents with involving these nations' intelligence agencies with crimes of torture as they cooperated with American 'renditions," during which terrorism suspects were sent by the CIA to those nations to be tortured.
President Obama insists that he ended U.S. torture and renditions soon after taking office, but -- gee whiz -- he has continued renditions that remain classified. We don't know who gets sent where and for what purpose.
One Republican senator intensely interested in the Intelligence Committee Report is John McCain, R-Ariz., who has expert individual knowledge of torture, having been continually tortured while a prisoner in North Vietnam during that war.
On Dec. 13, 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 ... we need not risk our country's honor to prevail in that through the violence and chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans and stronger and better than those who would destroy us."
Nat Hentoff is an authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.