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March 24, 2014

Architect of Torture Program Blasts the CIA for Blocking Senate Investigation

In a Politico piece titled How the CIA Blew It, Former CIA Chief Legal Officer John Rizzo blasts the CIA for picking the wrong fight with Congress over the Senate intelligence committee’s investigation of the post-9/11 torture program.  

“America's spooks aren't going rogue. They just picked a fight they couldn't possibly win,” Rizzo writes.

At issue here are recent accusations of “possible crimes” by both the Senate intelligence committee and the CIA over access to the so-called "Panetta review," an internal CIA document that reportedly summarizes the volumes of information made available to the committee.  On the one hand, the Senate intelligence committee accused the CIA of keeping them in the dark about the “Panetta review” and trying to get it back from them once they reviewed it. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the intelligence committee, says that the review was part of the 6 million-plus pages of documents given to them by the CIA. The CIA then claims that Senate intelligence committee staffers had no right to access it and, in fact, accessed it without authorization.  

Rizzo, who is one of the architects of the torture program, sides with the Senate on this issue. “An even more fundamental question seems to me to be whether the committee was entitled to the ‘Panetta Report’ in the first place. The answer, clearly, is yes,” he writes.

This controversy comes over one year after the Senate intelligence committee finished drafting its 6,000-plus page report of the CIA’s torture program. Those who have read the report, including Senator Feinstein, say that the CIA torture program was far more widespread than we thought and ineffective at securing the information needed to stop terrorist attacks.  The Panetta review allegedly confirms key aspects of the Senate intelligence committee study, but contradicts the CIA's official response to the study.  The CIA has refused to provide the committee with access to the Panetta review.  

Soon after Senator Feinstein took to the Senate floor two weeks ago and accused the CIA of blocking their investigation efforts, more people came out in support of declassifying the Senate torture report.

President Obama says that he is “absolutely committed to declassifying that report as soon as it is completed." Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora stated, “We have to understand facts of this ill-fated experiment with torture.”

John Rizzo also reiterated his support to declassify the report. He said on The Diane Rehm Show:

Obviously, I've not seen the report. I assume there are going to be things in there critical of my performance, my decisions...I believe that this report should come out. I've said that publicly...I think it needs to come out. I think the CIA's detailed rebuttal needs to come out. I just think everything needs to get out on the record. Let people judge. Let people decide and move on.

We agree. Americans deserve the truth on torture. Far too often in recent years, the public discussion on torture has been driven by torture proponents—former officials who authorized torture after 9/11 but who have never conducted an actual interrogation in their lives. We need to change that.

This report has the potential to end the debate on torture and allow Americans to know how ineffective the torture program really was and prevent its return. That’s why Human Rights First has been at the forefront of the efforts in Congress and the White House to push for the release of the torture report.

Senator Feinstein committed to holding a vote in the Senate intelligence committee as early as this week to declassify the torture report. Join our call to declassify the report by signing our petition.