December 3, 2014 / 6:52 PM / 5 years ago

As CIA, senators settle feuds, long-awaited 'torture' report imminent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate committee and the CIA have resolved a dispute over redactions in a long-awaited report highly critical of the spy agency’s coercive interrogation program, paving the way for the document’s likely release early next week, U.S. officials said.

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The document’s publication is the culmination of years of work by Democrats who control the Senate Intelligence Committee, but who will cede power when the newly elected Republican majority takes over the Senate next month.

The harsh CIA interrogations - which human rights campaigners and many U.S. politicians describe as “torture” - took place under President George W. Bush; they were banned by President Barack Obama. But release of the Senate report is nonetheless expected to touch off a domestic and international political uproar over CIA activities and U.S. security policies.

Officials familiar with the committee’s investigation say it concludes that there is no proof that harsh CIA interrogations, which included a simulated drowning technique known as “waterboarding,” produced U.S. counter-terrorism breakthroughs that could not have been obtained through non-coercive questioning.

Former intelligence and Bush administration officials who were involved with the interrogation program strongly dispute that conclusion.

With nudging from the White House, the CIA and key senators in recent days agreed that rank-and-file undercover CIA officers who participated in specific interrogations will mostly be identified in the report by their functions or job titles, the officials said.

Until recently, investigators working for the committee chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein, had insisted such personnel should be identified by pseudonyms. Intelligence officials argued that publishing pseudonyms could make it possible for foreign spy agencies and CIA critics to figure out the true identities of undercover spies, putting them at risk.

On this issue, according to officials familiar with the matter, the White House sided with the CIA.

Officials familiar with the document said it includes case studies in which detainees subjected to coercive questioning are identified by their real name.

The 20 case studies examining the treatment of individual detainees, the report argues, illustrate how the CIA misrepresented the value of information that harsh interrogation techniques extracted.

During their inquiry, committee investigators examined millions of pages of CIA operational records and drafted a detailed, but still highly classified, report that runs to 6,300 pages.

The document that the committee is preparing to publish is a 500-page summary of the larger report. It includes 20 findings by committee investigators about how the interrogation program worked - or did not work - and about 200 pages of history of the program.

Both the CIA and committee Republicans, who criticized the Democrats’ methods and participated in the committee’s investigation to a limited extent, are expected to publish rebuttals.

Editing by Warren Strobel and Leslie Adler

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