December 5, 2014 / 11:45 PM / 5 years ago

Kerry urges caution over timing of releasing U.S. torture report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday privately expressed concern about the timing of the release of a long-awaited Congressional report criticizing the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods days before it was expected to be released.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at the London Conference on Afghanistan, in London December 4, 2014. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Pool

Kerry’s spokeswoman said he called Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, to urge her to take foreign policy considerations into account when choosing when to publish.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that Kerry repeated his support for the release of the findings and “made clear that the timing is of course her choice.”

Earlier, sources aware of the call had said Kerry expressed concern that the release of a 500-page summary of the report could complicate tense foreign policy issues being addressed by the State Department.

One source said one concern was that Islamic militant groups holding U.S. hostages would execute them once the report is released. At least three Americans, including one woman, are currently believed to be held by such groups.

Another source said Kerry told Feinstein that publication could complicate U.S. relations with some countries in the Middle East which are working with the United States against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria and other groups.

A source familiar with the phone call said Kerry did not explicitly ask Feinstein to postpone the report’s release.

There was no immediate response to queries to Feinstein’s office and it was unclear whether she would publish the report as had been expected early next week.

The report, which took the committee’s Democratic staff years to compile, charts the activities of a CIA program launched under President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

It included using coercive interrogation practices condemned by rights groups as torture, including the simulated drowning technique “waterboarding,” on detained militant suspects. The practices were banned by President Barack Obama.

Congressional investigators and Administration officials have been wrangling for months to ensure the maximum amount of information is released but that it not endanger intelligence operations or U.S. relations.

Tentative plans had been made to release the summary along with lengthy critical responses from both the CIA and Senate Committee Republicans, who did not participate extensively in the committee’s investigation. 

Some Obama administration critics say the CIA and White House had been trying to delay the release until after control of the Senate shifts in January to Republicans, some of whom have fiercely criticized the investigation.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, however, that President Barack Obama wanted the report declassified as soon as possible.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Storey and Grant McCool

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