Obama Is Complicit in Suppressing the Truth About Torture

On his watch, the CIA has been permitted to keep secret a report on its own misconduct, even as misleading information was released to the public.
Reuters

President Obama is complicit in suppressing the truth about CIA torture of prisoners. That's clear from the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee's $40 million, 6,000-page torture report is still being suppressed 15 months after being adopted. It is made clearer still by a scathing letter that one member of the committee, Senator Mark Udall, sent the White House on Tuesday. Its claims are jaw-dropping. 

Udall wants the torture report released to the public as fully and quickly as possible. He is also interested in a separate CIA report about torture of prisoners. His letter makes all of the following charges:

  • Lots of information already given to the public about the CIA's torture program, its management, and its effectiveness "is misleading and inaccurate."
  • The Obama Administration itself has declassified and publicly released torture information that "contains inaccurate characterizations of CIA programs."
  • The CIA's internal review of its torture program contradicts what it told the oversight committee.
  • The CIA is erecting "impediments and obstacles" to its overseers.

Finally, and perhaps most alarmingly, Udall cryptically writes to Obama, "As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee's oversight responsibilities and for our democracy." 

What does it mean for the CIA to take "unprecedented action" against its overseers? 

Udall tells the president that he knows they share "a commitment to transparency and the rule of law." That clearly gives Obama too much credit. On torture, Obama has violated the law. And his commitment to transparency is illusory—in fact, he has amassed a historically bad record on that issue. 

But Udall is correct when he writes that "the American people deserve a proper and accurate accounting of the history, management, operation, and effectiveness of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program." It remains absurd that Obama keeps allowing the very agency exposed in that report to vet and suppress it.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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