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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaking on the floor of the Senate in Washington on March 11, 2014. / AP

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to declassify part of a report that details the controversial interrogation and detention methods deployed by the Central Intelligence Agency against terror suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

With the 11-3 vote in favor of declassification of the report's executive summary, pressure now shifts to the CIA and White House to swiftly vet the report for anything that may compromise national security and publicly release what is perhaps the most definitive account to date of actions taken by the intelligence community following the attack on U.S. soil.

"The purpose of this review was to uncover the facts behind this secret program, and the results were shocking," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the intelligence panel. "The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen."

The intelligence community has bristled at the prospect of the release of the Senate report, which was written by the intelligence committee's Democratic staff and, as some GOP members of the Senate panel note, did not include direct interviews of CIA officials, contract personnel or Bush administration officials. The committee voted in December 2012 to approve the findings, but the report remained classified.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., a member of the panel, called the report "flawed and biased" but ultimately voted in favor of declassifying it.

"I had hoped that the authors of the report would ensure that the American public was provided facts, not fiction," Burr said. He added, "However, I voted today to declassify the report to give the American people the opportunity to make their own judgments."

Three Senate Republicans - James Risch of Idaho, Dan Coats of Indiana and Marco Rubio of Florida - voted against declassification. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., voted present.

"Unfortunately, the study has pitted the Senate Intelligence Committee against the CIA and distracted us from focusing on the many threats facing our national security," Risch and Rubio said in a joint statement. "Unlike previous bipartisan reports to come out of the intelligence committee ‚?? including the recent study investigating the terrorists attacks in Benghazi, which received broad bipartisan support ‚?? this partisan effort deserves to be discredited."

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that government officials who reviewed the 6,300-page report said the most troubling part was not the details of detainee abuse, but the discrepancies between the statements of senior CIA officials and lower-level employees directly involved. Officials said the CIA's ability to obtain valuable intelligence had little, if anything, to do with the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," according to the Post.

"This report shows that multiple levels of government were misled about the effectiveness of these techniques," said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., an intelligence committee member. "If secretive government agencies want to operate in a democracy, there must be trust. As the committee carries out future oversight, we will be wary of the lessons we've learned from this report."

President Obama and other critics of some of the controversial interrogation methods used by the CIA have called the use of some techniques, such as waterboarding, a violation of laws prohibiting torture. After taking office, Obama banned the practice.

Feinstein said that she would like to see the declassification of the executive summary of the report, which runs about 480 pages and includes 20 findings and conclusions, completed in 30 days.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said that the agency has yet to receive a final version of the intelligence committee's report for classification review but stands ready to review it "expeditiously."

"The CIA has acknowledged and learned from the RDI (Rendition, Detention and Interrogation) program's shortcomings and has taken corrective measures to prevent such mistakes from happening again," Boyd said. "At the same time, we owe it to the men and women directed to carry out this program to try and ensure that any historical account of it is accurate."

White House press secretary Jay Carney noted ahead of the vote Thursday that Obama has long made clear that he wants the report declassified so the public can see it. But Carney said that Obama didn't have a deadline for publishing it.

"He would expect that the actions that are necessary to declassify a document like that be conducted in all due haste," Carney said.

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of Brennan Center for Justice's liberty and national security program at New York University, said there is no reason why the White House shouldn't immediately declassify the report. She also expressed skepticism that Americans will see a full picture of the committee's findings when the redacted summary of the findings is eventually released.

"The White House knows what's in the report," Goitein said. "What the CIA did is not news to them. They provided all the documents that the Senate committee used. It's their documents, it's their information."

Christopher Anders, a senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the CIA "should not be handed a black-out pen" and that the declassification process should be completed by the White House itself.

"The vote on this landmark report is a big step toward making sure that all Americans know the truth about torture, so that we can make sure that torture is never used again," Anders said. "The key challenge for President Obama now is whether he will finally stand up to the CIA."

Paul Pillar, a former CIA officer, dismissed the suggestion that Obama circumvent the CIA and said the agency has to play a key part in the declassification process.

"I don't see how you can do the declassification and protect sources and methods without going to the people who are using the sources and methods," Pillar said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Senate panel votes to declassify part of CIA report

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