POLITICS
12/09/2014 05:55 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2014

Republicans Argue Torture Helped America

WASHINGTON -- Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee accused their Democratic colleagues Tuesday of selectively choosing examples in their damning investigation of CIA torture practices, and of ignoring the patent fact that "enhanced interrogation" was effective.

"The study essentially refuses to admit that CIA detainees, especially CIA detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, provided intelligence information which helped the United States government and its allies to neutralize numerous terrorist threats," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"On its face, this refusal doesn't make sense, given the vast amount of information gained from these interrogations, the thousands of intelligence reports that were generated as a result of them, the capture of additional terrorists and the disruption of the plots those captured terrorists were planning," Chambliss went on. "Instead of acknowledging these realities, the study adopts an analytical approach designed to obscure the value of the intelligence obtained from the program."

The 167-page GOP rebuttal to the Democrats' report focuses on a number of cases where the authors see dramatic flaws in the Democrats' methodology and conclusions. It highlights in particular the case of Saudi detainee Abu Zubaydah, and information he provided that led to al Qaeda "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla, who was ultimately arrested and convicted.

According to the Democrats' version of events, Zubaydah gave up the information early on in questioning by an FBI agent, and subsequent enhanced interrogation produced little or nothing of value.

Chambliss' minority report, however, notes that even in April 2002, early on in Zubaydah's detention, he was subjected to a number of the methods that would later be promulgated by the Bush administration as acceptable, including nudity and sleep deprivation. It was after more than five full days of around-the-clock interrogation, and almost no sleep, that Zubaydah revealed the names of Padilla and another man to an FBI questioner.

"The simple fact is that Abu Zubaydah gave up Padilla during that interrogation, after being subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques," the Republican rebuttal says. "It is simply not factually accurate for the Study to claim that Abu Zubaydah gave up the information on Padilla before he was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques."

The Democrats also note, however, that the CIA already had information about Padilla from Pakistani sources, and that Zubaydah's revelations only enhanced that existing information.

Chambliss pointed to other parts of the Democrats' report that he said downplay the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation, arguing that on the contrary, the Democrats' own report shows these methods work. For instance, the GOP version notes that while seven victims of the torture techniques provided no information, many more did.

"If true, that means that 82 percent of detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques produced some intelligence while in CIA custody, which is better than the 57.5 percent effectiveness rate of detainees not subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques," the GOP report says.

But Chambliss said perhaps the biggest flaw in the Democrats' analysis is that their investigators did not interview any of the actual participants, relying instead on some 6 million cables, other documents and videotapes.

"Now, how can any credible investigation take place without interviewing witnesses?" Chambliss said on the Senate floor. "This is a 6,000-page report and not one single witness was ever interviewed in this study being done. This is a poor excuse for the kind of oversight that the Congress should be conducting."

The Democrats' report, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), argues that committee investigators were unable to interview a number of people at the time because there was a Justice Department probe underway. That ended in 2013, and investigators didn't track down those people afterward. But, their report says, they had access to everything they needed anyway.

"While the Committee did not interview CIA officials in the context of the Committee Study, it had access to and drew from the interviews of numerous CIA officials conducted by the CIA's Inspector General and the CIA Oral History program on subjects that lie at the heart of the Committee Study, as well as past testimony to the Committee," the Democrats' report says.

Chambliss acknowledged that CIA "interrogators exceeded their authorities and certain detainees may have suffered as a result." But he added that far from helping national security, the Senate report actively hurts it.

"Putting this report out today is going to have significant consequences," Chambliss said. "In addition to reopening a number of old wounds both domestically and internationally, it could be used to incite unrest and even attacks against our service members, other personnel overseas, and our international partners. This report could also stoke additional mistreatment or death of American or other Western captives overseas. It will endanger CIA personnel, sources and future intelligence operations. "

Democrats, however, argued that it's more important to show the world that America owns up to its failures and fixes them. Those sentiments were echoed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who emphasized the importance of transparency, even though he agreed with Chambliss that violence could result from the report's release.

"I suppose that’s possible, perhaps likely," McCain said. "But that doesn’t mean we will be telling the world something it will be shocked to learn. The entire world already knows that we waterboarded prisoners. It knows we subjected prisoners to various other types of degrading treatment. It knows we used black sites, secret prisons. Those practices haven’t been a secret for a decade."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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