Tags: CIA | Congress | Sen. Dianne Feinstein | Torture Report

'Torture Report' Omits Congress' Support

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Monday, 15 Dec 2014 09:32 AM Current | Bio | Archive

A glaring omission persists in the ongoing debate over a one-sided Senate Intelligence Committee report concerning a discontinued CIA detention and interrogation program.

The so-called “torture report” by Senate Democrats conveniently minimizes the role of Congress in supporting it. Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein is loathe to admit a fact so inconvenient to her established narrative, but it is important that it be acknowledged.

The CIA fully informed congressional leaders before, during and after the procedures were implemented on terrorist detainees, and to my recollection the agency heard no opposition from lawmakers and only encouragement.

I was a member of a select group of lawmakers known as the “Gang of Eight” which received those regular briefings from the administration on the High Value Terrorist Detainee Program, including enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs).

The bipartisan Gang of Eight includes the top Republican and Democrat on the House and Senate intelligence committees and the majority and minority leaders their respective chambers. The group, established by law, provides the president with the option of limiting attendance at briefings on matters that “meet extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States.”

The High Value Terrorist Detainee Program met those criteria.

I sat in on the sessions at the White House and Capitol with Republican and Democratic colleagues, and in some cases our staff. The administration described the techniques in detail and offered plenty of time and opportunities for discussion and feedback.

I don’t remember any protests or complaints — when they actually would have mattered — likely because everyone in the room knew just how important it was in producing actionable information that disrupted attacks and kept our nation safe.

Individuals in Gang of Eight conversations had several tools at their disposal to express disapproval and even outlaw the practices if they had so desired. To my knowledge no member ever exercised these levers of power.

Belonging to the Gang of Eight carries massive responsibility in representing all 435 members of the legislature in very sensitive national security exercises. Deliberations can impact life and death activity.

I felt confident when I would later meet with field-level personnel in reassuring them that the activities we were asking them to perform had been reviewed and authorized by their elected representatives.

Former CIA directors, officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and field operatives fulfilled a mission assigned to them by their government. Partisans are now challenging their personal and professional integrity because they did what their president and their Congress directed them to do. That's just wrong.

Even worse is that Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats allowed few if any opportunities for those they accuse of wrongdoing to defend themselves. The committee never summoned me, for example, to testify or submit a statement about the information that they provided and techniques that they demonstrated.

Decisions concerning covert actions are not often easily reached. All of the members at times struggled with the information presented by the executive branch. Tensions exist between the administration and its overseers in Congress by design. In this case my experience was that those running the program understood how important the decisions were and fully engaged Congress.

It is breathtaking to see how those who signed off on it at the time can so self-righteously vilify those who essentially carried out their orders.

The worldwide threat environment remains firmly in place with the ideological brethren of the 9/11 attackers still roaming, plotting and attacking Western targets and the concept of freedom wherever it exists.

Fortunately there are those still willing to fight in the shadows on our behalf to ensure the safety and security of the U.S. Throwing them under the bus to capitalize on the benefit of hindsight and incomplete information is petty, cheap and no way to say “thank you for risking your lives to do what we asked of you.”

Pete Hoekstra is the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and currently a senior adviser on intelligence and national security with Greenberg Traurig, LLP, in Washington, D.C.
He represented Michigan for 18 years in Congress as chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee and as a leading bipartisan voice on policy and oversight of national security, education, labor, and economic issues. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
 






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PeteHoekstra
The so-called “torture report” by Senate Democrats conveniently minimizes the role of Congress in supporting it.
CIA, Congress, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Torture Report
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2014-32-15
Monday, 15 Dec 2014 09:32 AM
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