The late conservative commentator Paul Harvey’s radio program had a segment titled “The Rest of the Story.” He would begin discussing a story line, pausing for effect with a commercial break, and then returning to finish it—usually with an unexpected twist.
On December 9, 2014, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released key findings of its Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program—a damning report on that agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” used during the War on Terror (2001-2006). While much of the 6000 page report still remains classified, the 525 pages released were highly critical of such CIA practices.
The report was devastating for good reason—only one side of the story was ever investigated. Nine months later, we may finally hear “the rest of the story”—not as a result of a government initiative but the initiative of the former CIA officials who were actually involved.
In a book to be published by the Naval Institute Press titled “Rebuttal: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program,” these officials will give their rationale as to why such techniques had to be employed. And, contrary to what Feinstein claims, they will document how effective these techniques proved to be, including leading to the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
One would think an investigation that took five years and $40 million to conduct would have been very thorough. Knowing it was incomplete and how findings condemning the CIA could be used by our enemies as a recruiting tool by Islamic extremists, we would expect such a report to be withheld until fully completed. That was not done.
Releasing the report absent a full investigation is more revealing about the SSCI’s leadership than it is about these CIA practices. Why would the Committee release an investigation in which it had failed to interview a single former CIA director or any of the U.S. Air Force psychologists who had created the techniques in question in order to better understand the environment within which they were deemed necessary?
Politics, rather than national security, appears to be the answer.
In December 2014, the SSCI was chaired by Diane Feinstein (D-Calif). Undoubtedly, her rush to judgment to release the report, in spite of its incompleteness, stemmed from concern her chairmanship was about to end with the swearing in of the Republican majority the following month might hold up the report’s publication.
But it was absolutely reprehensible for the report to go forward without balanced input. The last thing we need do is provide our Islamic enemies with additional fodder to feed such mindless fanatics—fanatics already possessed of a zest in this life to die to attain the next along with the endless sexual rewards Allah promises will come with it.
But next month, the rest of the story will finally be told by eight former top CIA officials—including three directors—sharing insights Senator Feinstein did not want to be heard.
Hopefully, the book will also explain the cost in American lives the release of the Feinstein report has caused due to several mistakes contained therein.
Other report findings should also be put into perspective. For example, nowhere in Feinstein’s report is mention made post-9/11 evidence suggested a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) attack was believed imminent, heightening the need to get answers quickly lest millions of American lives be lost.
Had such an attack actually occurred, a surviving Feinstein undoubtedly would have written an entirely different report—one faulting the CIA for failing to employ enhanced interrogation techniques to extract intelligence to prevent it.
Former CIA directors had criticized the report at the time for cherry-picking information and for failing to make a single recommendation. They also noted the SSCI missed the:
…opportunity to deliver a serious and balanced study of an important public policy question. The committee has given us instead a one-sided study marred by errors of fact and interpretation—essentially a poorly done and partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America after the 9/11 attacks.
It will be interesting to see if the soon-to-be published book will also mention Feinstein’s report failed to heed the advice of one of her own party’s former standard-bearers, President Clinton.
During a 2006 interview with Tim Russert, Clinton proffered that there is a time when torture is justified. Ironically, Clinton used a scenario the CIA actually believed it was facing after 9/11—i.e., a terrorist who knows when and where a bomb will go off. The former president said, “Don’t we have the right and responsibility to beat it out of him?”
The 2014 SSCI report will continue to be used by those seeking to do us harm as their justification for doing so. While we will hear the rest of the story next month, our enemies will not. They are most happy with the copy of the report Feinstein has already furnished them.
Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.