WASHINGTON: The US Senate will release a long-delayed report Tuesday into the CIA’s brutal interrogation of Al-Qaeda suspects after the 2001 attacks, as American embassies went on heightened alert amids fears of a backlash.
White House officials confirmed Monday they expect the report to be published, even though US Secretary of State John Kerry warned late last week about the impact it could have around the world.
While heavily redacted, the report is expected to be a damning indictment of a secret program under the administration of former president George W. Bush to question dozens of detainees.
Since coming to office in 2009, President Barack Obama has sought to distance the United States from past deeds and outlawed harsh interrogation techniques which he has denounced as “torture.”
“We have heard from the committee that they do intend to release the report tomorrow,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
“Prudent steps” had been taken to boost security at US facilities and diplomatic missions abroad in case the report triggers a wave of fury, he added.
The report is understood to cover the treatment of around 100 terror suspects rounded up by US operatives between 2001 and 2009, after the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda which destroyed the World Trade Center in New York.
The suspects were subjected to waterboarding, stress positions and other harsh methods, in a series of interrogations either at CIA-run secret prisons or the Guantanamo Bay US military base in Cuba.
“We tortured some folks,” Obama said in August, talking about the contents of the report.
The CIA’s defenders insist the methods saved American lives by helping to uncover Al-Qaeda’s network, while critics say they ran contrary to US values and hardened anti-American attitudes.
The 6,200-page report has been prepared by the US Senate intelligence committee. Its chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, sparred for months with the administration over proposed redactions.
In April, the committee voted overwhelmingly to release a reportedly severely critical 500-page executive summary and 20 conclusions of the secret document.
At the time Feinstein called the results “shocking” and pledged to work with the White House on negotiating redactions in order to release an unclassified summary to the public.
But the undertaking caused deep friction between the intelligence community and the lawmakers and Senate staffers.
“We’ve declassified as much of that report as we can,” said Earnest.
“The president believes that on principle it’s important to release that report, so that people around the world and people here at home understand exactly what transpired,” he added.
The State Department has put its missions around the world on watch, and asked them to review security arrangements ahead of the report’s release.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said she supported the release of the report.
“It exposes what the world already knows and that is that the United States engaged in torture. But my feeling about this is that this is a gut check moment for our democracy,” she told CBS.
“This report would never happen in North Korea, or China or Russia,” she argued. “If it doesn’t come out, then we all need to get comfortable with the fact that in America, the CIA has no oversight.”
But Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee Mike Rogers said Sunday: “I think this is a terrible idea.”
“Our foreign partners are telling us this will cause violence and deaths.”
Psaki confirmed Kerry had spoken with Feinstein last week to highlight ongoing efforts against the Islamic State group as well as the safety of American hostages around the world.
Another State Department official, who asked not to be named, said “you could infer that he talked about delaying the release.”
“There’s great hypocrisy in politicians’ criticism of the CIA’s interrogation program,” wrote Jose Rodriguez in the Washington Post last week.
“In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, lawmakers urged us to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our soil,” he said.