Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) defended the release of the CIA enhanced interrogation report in a testy exchange with CNN today, arguing that ISIS “may seize” upon the report, “they may not.”
Feinstein pushed for the release of the report in the waning days of her chairmanship before handing over the gavel to Republicans in the 114th Congress.
“Look, there is no perfect time to release this report,” she said when asked about the potential risk to American lives because of its publication, as the White House warned Monday. “This began 12 years ago. We have worked for five-and-a-half years to document records as to what happened.”
Feinstein accused host Wolf Blitzer of doing “a good job, certainly, of hyping the warnings.”
“Is it possible that something would happen?” she said. “Yes. But it’s possible that something happens even without this. There have been beheadings. There have been attacks without this report coming out. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t clean our house. It doesn’t mean that an Intelligence Committee that has worked for five-and-a-half years to put together a cogent report that we believe will stand the test of time shouldn’t release it.”
“The world is an unstable place. You know as well as I do, ISIL is pure evil. They may seize upon it, they may not. But they are going to continue to behead. They are going to continue to destroy. They are going to continue to kill innocent people until they are stopped. And I deeply believe that.”
The report, the senator said, is “what America is all about. We admit our mistakes. We commit ourselves to never let these mistakes happen again. And that’s what this is all about.”
“But if Americans are killed as a result of this report and they tell you that, I assume you would feel guilty about that,” Blitzer replied.
“I would feel very badly, of course. I mean what do you think, Wolf Blitzer?” Feinstein shot back.
“But we lose control. At the end of this year, the Republicans take control. And there’s some evidence that this report would never see the light of day,” she continued. “We believe it should see the light of day. And let me say this. This is a 400-plus-page summary. It is not the 4,600 page documentary of all of the detail of what happened. That can be declassified and released one day at an appropriate time.”
“But in the meantime, to get out what the executive summary said, that these EITs did not work, that the program was not well administered, that it was not well managed, I think, is extraordinarily important. That, yes, there were black sites where people who were not qualified to do the interrogation did interrogation.”
She then dug into what “CNN is doing this these days.”
“You are really hyping it to a point — obviously, they’re going to take 96 hours before the report came out to secure all our facilities,” she said of the extra security ordered for U.S. installations worldwide.
Blitzer noted that they’re simply reporting on what the FBI, DHS and Pentagon have been telling U.S. personnel around the globe.
“Do you have a question?” Feinstein retorted.
When pressed on CIA Director John Brennan’s response to the report — he asserted in a statement that “the intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day” — Feinstein said “an examination of the records going back to the beginning of the program indicates that this is simply not true.”
“So he’s lying, is that what you’re saying?” Blitzer asked.
“Well, no, wait a second, Wolf. I’m not going to get into this kind of discussion,” she replied. “…If Mr. Brennan is making an argument that this kind of torture works, we can submit all kinds of experts to say it doesn’t work.”
“The CIA spent $40 million to prevent us from issuing this report. That is fact. We did not spend the money. We used our staff to do this report. They went into our computers, illegally, to take out information — not once, not twice, but three times, which I believe is a separation of powers violation,” Feinstein added. “This, to me, shows that the CIA has pulled out the stops to prevent this from coming out.”
“…I don’t want to get into a battle with anybody over this. All I want people to do is read our report, please.”