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‘Torture doesn’t work’ is big takeaway of CIA report for Sen. Feinstein – Part 2

December 9, 2014 at 6:40 PM EDT
A five-year examination into CIA interrogation tactics authorized by the Bush administration has resulted in an extensive executive summary on so-called “enhanced techniques,” including rectal forced feeding and hypothermia. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the leading force in the release of the report, discusses the significance with Judy Woodruff.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn to a more in-depth discussion of today’s Senate Intelligence report on the harsh physical and mental techniques the CIA used on scores of detainees.

In a few minutes, we will hear from someone who was a high-ranking CIA officer during the time period covered by the report.

But, first, we turn to Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, who was the leading force in today’s release.

Senator Feinstein, thank you very much for joining us.

Let me just ask you, first off, what do you accomplish with the release of this report?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D), Select Committee on Intelligence: Well, I think we accomplish a number of things.

One is, we say to the world this is not what we stand for. Secondly, we make a record that’s been dark and clouded very clear. And, thirdly, this was a five-and-a-half-year effort by a number of our staff to get to the truth and to look at records, look at documents that were contemporaneous, that weren’t reinterpreted 12 years later.

And so this report has been carried out. It’s being made public, and I think what it says to the world is, this must never happen again in this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, we have talked to some CIA officials. Some of them are calling it a political witch-hunt. They say that no one at a top level of the CIA was interviewed by an Intelligence Committee staff member.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, if you listened to my remarks this morning, what I pointed out was the reason why there were no interviews, and that was the fact that there was a criminal investigation going on by the attorney general.

And, therefore, to do interviews put some culpability and liability on the interviewees, plus the fact the CIA didn’t compel them to interview. But what this was, was a very careful look at documents, cables, e-mails, all kinds of messages to weave together a documentary analysis of what has happened.

Now, the CIA can say anything they want, but all we’re asking is that people read the report and read the findings. And I think they will see that the big finding is that torture doesn’t work and shouldn’t be employed by our country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I’m sure, as you know, the CIA is saying something different. They’re saying they did get important information from these interrogations and that the United States is safer today as a result of that.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, we don’t find that to be true.

We find that there were other methods by which a lot of this intelligence was gathered, some even before the heavy interrogation started, some by human intelligence, some by SIGINT intelligence, but the fact that this — that, by using torture, we stopped terrorist attacks is simply not correct.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, they also say, Senator, that what they did was approve at the very highest levels of government, at the White House, by members of Congress, and that there were key members of Congress who were briefed on what they were doing.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, I can — we were briefed in 2006.

And I can tell you that that briefing was de minimis. As a matter of fact, it was given to us by the then Director Michael Hayden, who used the word tummy slap, who said these were under professional guidance, strongly monitored.

In fact, they were not. And I think what we found is that the president may well not have been told the depth and breadth of this torture program. He, we believe, was informed somewhat, but not like this report reads.

And I would challenge him to read the report. And there’s another 6,000 pages that remains classified that certainly people with security clearance can read. And that will be added documentation to the kind of torture that went on.

This was a program that, at a certain point, was turned over to two contractors who got $80 million from the federal government for conducting this torture. We do not believe they were qualified. We do not believe that the quality of people in some of the black sites was what it should have been. And we do not believe that there was sufficient oversight, management that showed a strong control of the program.

As a matter of fact, what we found in places was that — was that analysts were making operational decisions. That should never happen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, let me just bring you back to one of the fundamental arguments they make. And that is so much of this was done in response to what happened on 9/11. Three thousand Americans were killed.

And there are any — a long list of other attempts made by terrorists to come after the United States. And they say that is what — is what needs to be kept at the center of this argument.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, there is no question about that.

But with certain people, you know, the FBI, for example, one FBI agent who’s very well known, going back to the ’93 attack on the World Trade Center, spent a lot of time with the Blind Sheik, built up a rapport, asked the questions, got the response. The Blind Sheik ended up pleading guilty.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying, if you are really trained in interrogation, if you take the time to do it right, there’s a very high likelihood that you will get much more information than pulling somebody out of the cell, undressing them, dragging them through hallways, and doing terrible things to them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Senator, do you believe this kind of treatment is still going on today?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: No, not to the best of my knowledge. It is not. And what we hope this report will stand for is that it will never again happen.

And I want to say something else, if I can, because there are some of my colleagues are saying this is an attack on President Bush. It is not an attack on President Bush. As a matter of fact, from the documents we looked at, the records we looked at, President Bush didn’t actually know the depth and breadth of the program.

At one point, people made an effort to keep it away from him. And those of us that had an opportunity to get to know President Bush, I don’t believe he would countenance the kind of activity that went on for one moment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, we thank you very much.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.