BY JONATHAN S. LANDAY
MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON -- Senate Intelligence Committee members protested Tuesday over the Obama administration’s censorship of a report on the CIA’s use of "brutal" interrogation methods, charging that the deletions hid key facts and blacked out information that was made public years ago....
The senators raised their objections to the redactions in emailed statements sent within minutes of each other, indicating a coordinated effort to drive home their anger and further highlighted the serious frictions between the Democratic administration and Democrat-run panel that oversees the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.
Relations between the committee and the CIA also have soured over the agency’s admission last week that it had broken into a computer database that by agreement was supposed to have been accessed only by the panel staffers who compiled the report.
The latest uproar came four days after the completion of a declassification process in which the CIA and then the White House blacked out details from the nearly 500-page executive summary -- the only part of the 6,300-page report that will be released -- what they considered as sensitive national security information.
In their emailed statements, four of the committee members, including the chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., charged that the deletions were excessive and hid critical information dug up by the five-year, $40 million probe of the interrogation methods employed by the CIA under the former George W. Bush administration.
The White House had no immediate comment.
The White House and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have defended the blackouts, contending that more than 85 percent of the executive summary was left untouched and that half the deletions were made to footnotes.
The statements from Feinstein and Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Mark Udall of Utah and Angus King, an independent from Maine, indicated that the dispute goes beyond redactions of pseudonyms of covert CIA officers and foreign countries that a Feinstein spokesman said Tuesday were in contention.
Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he’d found “multiple instances” where blackouts were made to information that had been publicly disclosed in a report on detainee abuses that his panel made public in 2009.
King, who caucuses with the Senate’s majority Democrats, said:
Udall, an outspoken critic of the CIA’s interrogation program, dismissed Clapper’s defense of the deletions.
His comments reflected the report’s main conclusion, that the agency’s use of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, wall-slamming and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspect terrorists held in secret overseas prisons produced little valuable intelligence.
Other conclusions, obtained by McClatchy in April, said that the agency misled the Bush administration, Congress and the public about the efficacy of the program and called into question the legal justifications for the techniques, which Obama, some lawmakers and human rights experts have denounced as torture.
The CIA and former Bush administration officials say that valuable intelligence was gained from the program and dispute that the techniques constituted torture.