Outgoing Colorado Senator Mark Udall took to the floor of the Senate to skewer the Obama administration and the CIA over the CIA torture report, at one point calling for a “purge” of the CIA and accusing the agency of continuing to lie.
Udall didn’t stop there. He discussed the findings of a classified report known as the Panetta Review, claiming that the administration was keeping the document from the Senate.
He also called for the resignation of current CIA chief John Brennan:
In a career-defining speech, Sen. Mark Udall took to the Senate floor Wednesday to discuss a largely classified internal CIA investigation into the agency’s Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and to call for the current CIA director’s resignation.
Udall, an outbound Democrat from Colorado, began highlighting key conclusions from the CIA’s so-called Panetta Review, written in 2011 and named after then-agency Director Leon Panetta. Its critical findings, in addition to the agency’s attempts to prevent the Senate from seeing it, Udall said, demonstrates that the CIA is still lying about the scope of enhanced-interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration.
That deceit is continuing today under current CIA Director John Brennan, Udall said.
“The refusal to provide the full Panetta Review and the refusal to acknowledge facts detailed in both the committee study and the Panetta Review lead to one disturbing finding: Director Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture.”
Obama, Udall said, “has expressed full confidence in Director Brennan and demonstrated that trust by making no effort at all to rein him in.” Udall additionally referred to Brennan’s “failed leadership” and suggested that he should resign.
Udall said that redactions in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark torture report obfuscated key details about the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods. Among those, Udall said, the report is ambiguous about how many CIA officials participated in the brutal practices. In reality, it was only a handful, he said.
As he spoke, Udall continued to give a blistering and detailed account of the CIA leadership’s and its refusal to come clean with the American people on the Bush-era program. Udall accused the CIA of outright lying to the committee during its investigation.
“Torture just didn’t happen, after all,” Udall said. “Real, actual people engaged in torture. Some of these people are still employed by the CIA.”
Udall said it was bad enough not to prosecute these officials, but to reward or promote them, he said, was incomprehensible. Udall called on Obama “to purge” his administration of anyone who was engaged in torturing prisoners.
“He needs to force a cultural change at the CIA,” Udall said.
And, Udall said, the institutional problems are far from over. “CIA was knowingly providing inaccurate information to the committee in the present day,” he said.
There’s a time and a place for everything, and Udall chose poorly. A more appropriate venue for this speech would have been behind closed doors in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing room. Udall is immune from prosecution because he committed the felony of revealing classified information on the floor of the Senate. But it should be pointed out that declassifying information is not his call to make. There is plenty of precedent for a president to declassify documents if he feels it is in the national interest. Udall could have made a request for Obama to declassify the Panetta Review.
But Udall is leaving the Senate, having been defeated in his re-election bid. His desire to go out in a blaze of glory by lashing out at the CIA and Obama administration for their real and perceived sins smacks of a vainglorious effort to get attention and leave his mark before his departure.
Udall has been mostly right about the NSA and the surveillance society. It’s a shame he allowed his ego to get the better of him in this matter. Revealing classified information in this case didn’t advance his cause and may have set it back.