Last week, I wrote, both here and in the New York Times, that after reading all 828 pages of the released SSCI report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program and responses to it from the CIA and Republican committee members, I had concluded that the report’s focus on whether the techniques used by the CIA were “effective” was misguided, and essentially gave a pass to too many culpable actors beyond the CIA, especially in the White House, the Cabinet, and the Justice Department.
This week, in the name of correcting the record, and thanks, ironically, to the CIA’s own effort to defend itself, I want to place blame where it rightly belongs – with the CIA, to be sure, but also with specific high-level officials and lawyers outside the agency who were directly involved in reviewing the CIA’s tactics, and either said yes or failed to say no. It’s now been brought to my attention that lost in all the focus on the irresolvable “efficacy” debate were a series of newly declassified documents that fill out the picture of joint responsibility that is the real story of our descent into torture. These new documents, not addressed in any other reporting on the subject of which I am aware, name names, describe specific meetings, and demonstrate that many well-respected lawyers and statesmen said yes when they should have said no. They provide an important – if likely uncomfortable for some – addition to the narrative, and show just how widespread the blame for the torture program really goes.