12/13/2013 05:13 pm ET Updated Feb 12, 2014

Time to Settle the Debate on Torture

On December 13, 2012, a bipartisan majority of the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to adopt the single most comprehensive study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chair of the Intelligence Committee, has described the report as "one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the United States Senate" with the potential to "settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques."

Nevertheless, one year later, this groundbreaking report remains top secret.

Senators familiar with this exhaustive report indicate that "[t]he report uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight;" "that the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners is not only wrong in principle and a stain on our country's conscience, but also an ineffective and unreliable means of gathering intelligence;" and "that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information about its interrogation program to the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress."

Not surprisingly, it appears that some CIA officials do not want the report to see the light of day.

Rather than taking a lesson learned approach and restoring its reputation, news articles suggest that the agency is more interested in defending its now defunct program and discrediting the Committee's report. But as Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has repeatedly stated, acknowledging the flaws of the CIA's detention and interrogation program is essential for the agency's long-term institutional integrity as well as for the legitimacy of ongoing sensitive programs.

And perhaps even more importantly, a comprehensive, public accounting of the use of torture and cruelty in U.S. counterterrorism efforts is absolutely necessary if we do not want to commit the same mistakes again.

The Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture can finally set the record straight and establish an official, dispositive government narrative. The study will let us know whether there are sufficient mechanisms, oversight, and checks and balances in place to ensure such a departure from our laws, values, and national security interests will not be repeated.

It is only by having all the information available that policymakers can understand how this failure of U.S. policy occurred and be better positioned to prevent it from happening again.

The 6,300 page report, containing more than 35,000 footnotes, based on a documentary review of more than 6 million pages of CIA and other records, took 3 1/2 years to complete and cost more than $40 million. Not publically releasing the report would be an enormous waste of time and resources. However, the cost to our national security, foreign policy interests, and moral standing in the world will be immeasurable.

It's been one year since the report was adopted, four years since the review was initiated, and over a decade that we have not fully reckoned with this depraved chapter of our history. The Senate Intelligence Committee took a major step a year ago to adopt its report. It should now vote to publically release it.