Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation of the CIA's controversial interrogation program, said Saturday that a new, critical book by some top former CIA officials "doesn't lay a glove" on her panel's conclusions that the agency carried out torture to get information that had already been extracted by "more traditional and acceptable ways."
The California Democrat, who oversaw the years-long investigation and production of a still-classified 6,000-page report whose summary was sharply critical of the CIA's interrogation program, said the new book by ex-spy agency officials "contains nothing new—it recycles the same comments from former CIA officials when the executive summary of the SSCI Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation came out last December."
SSCI is the acronym for the panel's seldom-used full official name, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Feinstein ceded the chairmanship of the committee when the Republicans took control of the chamber following the 2014 elections.
The new book, REBUTTAL: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program, is being published next week by the U.S. Naval Institute Press. It features contributions by several former CIA senior officials, including former directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, who oversaw various stages of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" applied to Al-Qaeda operatives in the first years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
The former officials "maintain that the SSCI report was biased and unfairly characterized the program," the publisher said in a press release. "This is their attempt to set the record straight on the techniques that were used in interrogating terrorists as well as emphasize the value of the information that was gained."
In fact, many of the same ex-officials had been airing their views on a website set up exactly for that purpose when the heavily redacted, nearly 600-page summary of the committe's report was issued in December.
Former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, who led the creation of the website and new book, said the ex-officials contributed to the project "because the truth, context and safety of the nation matter."
As he had in a personal memoir of his CIA years published in 2014, John Rizzo, the agency's former acting general counsel, describes the legal underpinning for the “enhanced interrogation program,” and "the care with which CIA ensured that it had the full legal support of the Department of Justice and White House."
But Feinstein characterized the essays in the book as recycled criticisms from the website that "do not contradict" the committe's conclusions: "that these interrogation techniques were brutal and did not produce information that was not already obtained in more traditional and acceptable ways by intelligence and law enforcement personnel."
Feinstein added that "the new book doesn’t lay a glove on the factual accuracy of the Committee’s report, which remains the definitive word on the subject and which uses six million pages of the CIA’s own records as its foundation. Based on the comments by these former CIA officers in the new rebuttal, all of whom played key roles in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, it is clear that they still have not read the report."
In a recent Newsweek interview before publication of the new book was announced, former top FBI counterterrorism agent Ali Soufan expressed amazement that "we are still debating if torture is good idea or not."
Soufan, who conducted interrogations of Al-Qaeda suspects, added that the "6,000 pages of the Senate inquiry, the 600-page executive summary [and its] 38,000 footnotes, not to mention all other reviews, such as the CIA's own Inspector General report, all came up with the same conclusion: Torture does not work and is harmful to our national security."