The relationship between the CIA and the Senate is, to say the least, tense. A dispute over the public release of a report on Bush-era interrogation tactics isn’t helping to mend bridges. The Senate Intelligence Committee is all ready to send the 400-page summary (of a 6,200-page investigation) to President Obama’s desk for his approval or redaction. The Committee hopes that the release of the information would cause some transparency regarding the interrogation methods undertaken by the CIA during Bush’s presidency, many of which, such as water-boarding, were highly contentious. Unsurprisingly, The CIA claims that these tactics are valuable tools for collecting intelligence and advises against the release of the report. The release of the report would be embarrassing for the agency (and particularly the director, who was a high-ranked intelligence officer during the Bush administration).
The clash between the Senate and the CIA has come to a head in a classic game of he-said, she-said over the methods the Senate used to collect its information. Senator Diane Feinstein, the intelligence committee’s chairwoman, accused the CIA of monitoring Senate computers and deleting files from them, violating the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. The CIA, on the other hand, claims that the committee obtained some of its sources illegally. Both parties have registered complaints with the Justice Department. But the CIA would do well to take a light approach on this one. The public is still coming to terms with the Edward Snowden revelations pertaining to the NSA’s enormous power, and a heavy-handed effort to prevent this information from coming to light might be damaging to the agency’s reputation.
This week, a vote is taking place to determine the fate of the report. Feinstein says she has the votes favoring the release the information. Ultimately, though, it’s Obama’s call whether or not these findings ever enter the public sphere of knowledge. He’s said that he is “absolutely committed” to the release of the information, so it seems likely that we’ll gain some insight into a fairly unsavory chapter of the country’s history. Intelligence committee member Senator Mark Udall wrote in a letter to the president: “The American people deserve a proper and and accurate accounting of the history, management, operation, and effectiveness of this program.” I, for one, couldn’t agree more.