PORTLAND — Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said Wednesday they support releasing key details on the CIA’s use of “torture” in the post-9/11 fight against terrorism, likely handing advocates for disclosure the votes needed to make public the now-classified report.
The announcement came one day before the Senate Intelligence Committee – on which both King and Collins sit – is expected to vote on whether to release a redacted summary and conclusions of the classified, 6,000-page report on CIA “enhanced interrogation” techniques.
Collins and King hold two of the 15 seats on the closely divided committee, so their decisions appear to have helped tip the balance in favor of public disclosure of a document described as an indictment of the CIA interrogation techniques. Although neither served on the panel at the time committee Democrats conducted the investigation, both were considered swing votes and have come under heavy pressure from groups in Maine and around the country pushing to release the report.
“We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values,” Collins, a Republican, and King, an independent, said in a joint statement. “While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture.
“This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred,” the statement continued. “Further, the report raises serious concerns about the CIA’s management of this program.”
The report details the use of waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists in the early years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks during the administration of President George W. Bush. The report also apparently rebuffs claims that the harsh techniques yielded useful information to help capture other suspects or avert other attacks.
The findings have opened a rift between the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats, with each side accusing the other of illegal behavior and spreading misinformation. Committee Republicans and their staffers were not involved in preparing the report, adding to the partisan friction.
King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has said several times in recent weeks that he was leaning toward supporting the release of a summary of the report after sensitive information has been redacted, although he has not definitively said so. Collins, a Republican, had said she wanted to read the report but had not taken a clear public stance on whether to release it.
Collins and King said that their support of releasing the report “does not signal a full endorsement of all of its conclusions or methodology.”
“We do, however, believe in transparency and believe that the executive summary, and additional and dissenting views, and the CIA’s rebuttal should be made public with appropriate redactions so the American public can reach their own conclusions about the conduct of this program,” they said.
Former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of the report’s preparation, was the only Republican on the committee to vote to adopt the report.
‘RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY’
Members of the clergy in Maine have been leading the public push to pressure King and Collins to support releasing the report as a way to prevent a repeat of what they view as morally and ethically unjustifiable torture.“The bipartisan vote of Maine’s two senators … is consistent with Maine’s congressional legacy of being on the right side of history when it comes to important matters of morality and national security,” Rev. Dr. William Barter, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, said in a statement. “This is a proud day for Mainers.”
President Obama and his top officials will also have a chance to review the report before a public release to ensure sensitive intelligence material has been redacted.
Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at: