04/14/2014 10:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

House Dems to Obama: Hurry Up On Detainee Declassification

If the Senate Intelligence Committee's 11-3 vote last week is any indication, Senate Democrats are united in their support of closing the chapter on Bush-era enhanced interrogation techniques on their own terms. All of the Intel Committee's Democrats were solidly behind Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein's (D- CA) campaign to have the EIT report sent to President Obama's desk with as few revisions to its findings as possible.

However, there hasn't been much talk on the subject among Feinstein's Democratic colleagues on the other side of the Capitol building. Or to be a little more accurate, Democrats in the House of Representatives have not been as vocal on the EIT discussion as Democrats in the Senate (House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is the exception).


That is...until Representative Adam Schiff (D- CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, scraped up a portion of his Democratic colleagues in an effort to send a letter to the White House asking President Obama to declassify the report's executive summary in its entirety. 40 House Democrats signed onto the appeal, 20 percent of the total House Democratic caucus.

A portion of the letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing in reference to the vote on April 3rd by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) to send the executive summary of its committee report on enhanced interrogations to your Administration for declassification review. We respectfully urge you to order the declassification of the report's executive summary and findings expeditiously and in their entirety. The American people need and deserve a full account of the actions that were taken in their name through the use of torture and enhanced interrogations on detainees. As you have said publicly, the report must be declassified "so that the American people can understand what happened in the past."

The report is a product of a thorough and professional investigation by committee staff, marking the culmination of five years of painstaking work. Committee staff examined millions of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents to reconstruct a detailed history of the origins and practice of the enhanced interrogation program. According to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Committee found that the "interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detention sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA had described them to us." It's clear that years after the enhanced interrogation program ended, the American people and even the vast majority of Members of Congress remain in the dark.
Together we stand, as we know you do, for the proposition that our nation should set an example for the world in humane treatment of detainees and abiding by the rule of law. Part of that commitment means acknowledging times when we failed to live up to our values and our laws, even when doing so is uncomfortable. We urge you to take this opportunity to cast some new light on a dark period in our history. The sooner the summary of the report and its findings are made public in their entirety, the sooner we can move on from this unfortunate chapter in our history.

As much as congressional Democrats would like the EIT study to be released to the public as soon as possible, the declassification process is likely to take at least several weeks to complete. The Central Intelligence Agency needs to pour over the document to ensure that sources and methods are protected. Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee will also want their own minority response to the EIT study released in tandem, and the CIA will undoubtedly want their concerns published as well.

If the White House intends to fair, everything should be out in the open so Americans can make their own judgments.