Eleven years after the CIA last waterboarded a terror suspect, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is moving to uncloak its secret report on America’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques in the early years of the war on terrorism, and the U.S. intelligence community is preparing to fight back.
Current and former intelligence officials told The Washington Times they are furious that the Senate panel, headed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, did not interview the senior managers of the interrogation program launched after the Sept. 11 attacks or the CIA directors who oversaw it.
“The truth is they had their foregone conclusions with what they wanted to say in this report, and they did not want the facts to get into the way,” said Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., one of the CIA’s most respected retired officers and who, as head of the Agency’s clandestine service, oversaw the enhanced interrogation program that used sleep deprivation, waterboarding, uncomfortable positioning and other tactics to extract information from high-value al Qaeda operatives.
“The process has been political. It has been ideological. And it is just wrong,” said Mr. Rodriguez, who retired in fall 2007 and later wrote a best-selling book entitled “Hard Measures” that argued that the tactics, which critics have denounced as torture, saved American lives.
U.S. intelligence officials and Senate aides confirm that the Senate Intelligence Committee did not interview former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Mike Hayden, nor did the committee staff interview the program’s direct day-to-day managers, like Mr. Rodriguez.
Some of those officials told The Times they were told by Senate aides they weren’t interviewed because they once had been under possible criminal investigation.
But that investigation by a special Justice Department prosecutor was closed out more than two years ago, with no charges filed against any supervisor of the program.
“It is astonishing nobody ever reached out to us to interview us,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Especially those people who were directors and program managers during that period of time.”
The Intelligence Committee confirmed Monday evening it did not interview the key managers of the program, instead relying on more than 6.3 million pages of contemporaneous documents, emails and cables as well as the CIA’s own prior interviews with more than 100 of its own employees.
“The committee could not conduct interviews because of an ongoing DOJ criminal investigation into CIA activities. Furthermore, interviews were not necessary because of the comprehensive documents available for review, including interview reports of senior CIA officers who carried out the program,” committee spokesman Tom Mentzer said in a statement to The Times.
“In preparing its response to the study, the CIA reached out to its own officials for their perspectives of the program, which were included in the CIA’s response and in meetings with committee staff. These views were considered by the committee in updating the report,” he said.
Mr. Hayden, who ran the CIA from 2006 to 2009, wrote in his regular column Tuesday in The Times that he is disappointed that journalists, op-ed writers and human rights groups got leaks from the report and appeared to have “more access than all but a very few former CIA senior officers whose actions are cataloged there but who have been denied access.”
Mr. Hayden said he, Mr. Tenet, and Mr. Goss, though never interviewed, were offered belated access to the report in late July, but only if they signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Senate committee.
“None of us had any influence on the Agency response other than an understandable plea to make it as robust and honest as possible,” he wrote in his column Tuesday.
On the flip side, Ms. Feinstein is upset that the Obama administration blacked out about 15 percent of the passages in the report for security reasons, redactions that she declared earlier this month undercut the report’s findings.