Intelligence work is all about secrets: finding the other side’s, protecting your own.
Democracy requires transparency. A people can’t govern itself without some idea of what is going on.
The challenge of conducting intelligence operations in a democracy is constantly resetting the balance between keeping secrets and informing the public. There have to be compromises at times, but ultimately the public needs to know the truth.
We are at such a time when it comes to the CIA interrogations during the Bush administration that relied on torture to extract secrets from terror suspects.
This program is the subject of what has been described as a 6,000-page classified report in the hands of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is said to detail exhaustively the techniques used and the results produced, and it should now be part of the public record.
The Intelligence Committee, which includes Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snowe, should release the report and let the American people know, finally, what was done in the name of their security and let them decide whether it was worth it.
It’s important that this report comes out and become part of the historical record. Otherwise, partial versions and misleading accounts will influence future policy makers.
Earlier this year, former CIA Deputy Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez told Time magazine that information produced by torturing a captive was instrumental in the investigation that found and killed Osama bin Laden.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., immediately issued a rebuttal, stating that the information that led to bin Laden’s death did not come from CIA detainees who had been tortured. Feinstein had seen the report, and so should the rest of us.
There’s plenty about torture that is not a secret. For one, it’s illegal. For another, most experts consider it ineffective. And a country’s willingness to use of torture damages its reputation to the world and history.
Now we should find out finally what was done in the war against terrorism and what was its result. Snowe and the other members of the committee should accept the report and submit it to the painstaking process of declassifying it for public consumption.
These secrets have been kept too long already.