On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, It’s Time for Someone to Leak the Whole of the US Senate Torture Report


The cover of a version of the executive summary of the Senate torture report, made publicly available in December 2014.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.


Today is an important day — 30 years since the entry into force of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and 20 years since the establishment, on that anniversary, of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and to mark the occasion it would be wonderful if someone in the huge, sprawling organization that is the United States government would release — leak, if you prefer — the full Senate Intelligence Committee Study on CIA Detention and Interrogation Program.

The report took five years to compile, contains 6,700 pages, and cost $40m, and it was approved for publication by the committee members on December 13, 2012, by nine votes to six, although it was not until December 9, 2014 that a partly-redacted 525-page document — the executive summary and certain key findings — was released. See Senator Dianne Feinstein’s page on the report for all the publicly available documents.

The executive summary was a profoundly shocking document, despite the redactions, and despite consisting of less than one-tenth of the total, as I explained at the time, when I wrote that the report found that:

the interrogations “were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others”, … that torture was “not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees”, that the CIA made “inaccurate claims” about the “effectiveness” of the programme in an attempt to justify it and that it led to friction with other agencies that endangered national security, as well as providing false statements that led to costly and worthless wild goose chases.

There were also other shocks — the first public revelations, for example, that some prisoners were subjected to “rectal feeding” — or, in other words, were anally raped, a revelation that still shocks me, as well as incredibly useful information about how many men had been subjected to the program. When I researched the program in 2009 and wrote about it for a UN report on secret detention, I estimated that 94 men had been held; the Senate report, however, found 119.

However, although the publication of the executive summary of the report led to a widespread recognition within the US that something terrible had happened, and that it shouldn’t be swept under the carpet, no one was held accountable for what took place, and repeated calls from NGOs for the full report to be released were ignored.

Adding insult to injury, just before President Obama left office, he preserved the full report under the Presidential Records Act. This prevented critics of the report, like Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican who became the Senate intelligence Committee’s chair after Sen. Feinstein, from destroying existing classified copies, but also placed it “out of public view for at least 12 years and probably longer,” as the Guardian described it in December.

Daniel Jones, who led the torture inquiry, criticized Obama’s actions as inadequate, saying, “The bar for positive White House action on this is incredibly low. Preserving the full 6,700-page report under the Presidential Records Act only ensures the report will not be destroyed. It does little else.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “The American people deserve the opportunity to read this history rather than see it locked away in a safe for twelve years. When the president-elect [Donald Trump] has promised to bring back torture, it is also more critical than ever that the study be made available to cleared personnel throughout the federal government who are responsible for authorizing and implementing our country’s detention and interrogation policies.”

As the Guardian explained, he “urged Obama to designate the torture report an agency record, which makes it releasable under the Freedom of Information Act.” As Wyden himself added, “Burying the study achieves nothing but to create an information vacuum that gets filled with uninformed and highly dangerous propaganda.”

This month, more bad news emerged from the Trump administration. On June 2, the New York Times reported that congressional officials had said that the administration “had begun returning to Congress” copies of the Senate report, which “raises the possibility that most of the copies could be locked in Senate vaults indefinitely or even destroyed.”

In response, to repeat what I mentioned above, I believe it is time for someone in the US government with access to the full report to release it to the public. I can be contacted here if anyone is interested.

It remains hugely important for the whole of the report to be made publicly available, because accountability remains frustratingly elusive when it comes to the torture program, and the responsibility of senior officials, up to including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, for implementing it.

On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, it is important to remember that, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the US took a huge step backwards regarding civilized nations’ hopes that torture could be eradicated, when, under Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, a brand-new global torture program was set up.

That program — featuring secret prisons in several countries around the world, including Thailand, Poland, Romania and Lithuania — was first revealed in the media at the end of 2005, and largely — though not entirely — came to an end in September 2006, when President Bush, acknowledging the existence of the “black sites” for the first time, also announced that they had been closed and their last prisoners — 14 so-called “high-value detainees” — brought to Guantánamo.

President Obama formally brought the torture program to an end when he took office in January 2009, although doubts remained about what the significance was of torture techniques remaining in the Army Field Manual (in Appendix M), and some investigators also suggested that other ”black sites” were in operation in other war zones involving the US.

Unfortunately, Obama refused to hold anyone accountable for the Bush administration’s torture program. As I explained in my most recent article:

In the Jeppesen case, in which a number of former prisoners sought to sue a Boeing subsidiary for being the CIA’s “travel agent for torture,” the president invoked the little-used “state secrets doctrine” to keep the case out of court.

In another notorious example of obstruction, he allowed a Department of Justice “fixer,” David Margolis, to override the highly critical conclusion of a four-year ethics investigation into John Yee and Jay S. Bybee, who had written and approved the notorious “torture memos” in August 2002, in which they had sought to redefine torture so that it could legally be used by the CIA.

The quotes above are from an article about the only torture-related case that is ongoing in the US — the forthcoming trial of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, military psychologists who reverse-engineered a program for training US personnel to resist torture if captured by a hostile enemy for use in the “war on terror,” despite having no experience of interrogations in the real world.

That trial is scheduled to begin in September in Washington State, and constitutes the best hope for those of us who are still seeking accountability. But how much more powerful would it be if the whole torture report was available when its architects take the stand?

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, here’s my last-minute article for the day, a request for someone in the the huge, sprawling organization that is the United States government to leak the full 6,700 pages of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, about the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. The 500-page executive summary, released in December 2014, was damning enough, but we need the whole report to be made publicly available, as Obama buried it for 12 years (at least) and Trump is threatening to destroy it. A leak by September would be useful, to coincide with the trial of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the architects of the torture program, but I can be contacted anytime!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Please also check out my band The Four Fathers’ song about Mitchell and Jessen, the torture program, and the $81m they were paid: https://thefourfathers.bandcamp.com/track/81-million-dollars

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    Andy, I concur. We have leaks everywhere but this has not been leaked? It needs to be made public.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jan. I thought you might appreciate this call for transparency! I was going to mention photos in the article as well, but in the end I thought that was a bit tangential. However, it remains clear to me that photos are also significant in awakening people to what has been happening in their name – as we saw with the Abu Ghraib photos, although shockingly most young people now won’t even know what the Abu Ghraib scandal was! Outside of those photos, all we’ve really had from the “war on terror” are the initial photos Rumsfeld approved the release of, of the orange-clad prisoners arriving at Guantanamo, kneeling in the gravel with their eyes and ears covered (which shocked no one in the US, but did elsewhere), a couple of photos of prisoners strapped up on rendition flights (very shocking, but not generally well known), and the footage of Omar Khadr being interrogated as a teenager (which came via the Canadians). I’m constantly surprised that no one has ever leaked photos of operations in Guantanamo, or of the “black sites.” 15 years of horror and yet – nothing.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    It proves we are still under tight control with no transparency. None under Bush, none under Obama & Trump – never.
    In a Western world in which many don’t read beyond 150 characters, photos may be the only way to reach the masses.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Sadly, yes, Jan. I have noticed how, generally, people read less since the dawn of social media. I include myself in that, but I’m still able to read very quickly and to sift through information and discern what’s important. Many people are not, and are now being manipulated even more than they were in the old days of being told what to think by the establishment media.
    As for photos, it is an eternal sadness for writers that the reach of photos, or GIFs, or short videos is tens, hundreds, thousands, millions of times greater that the reach of text (with all its cumbersome thoughts, ideas, and arguments, and even its capacity for vision and inspiration!)

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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