Missouri’s U.S. senators – Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill – hold starkly different views on the release of the congressional report into the CIA’s actions in the detention and torture of some prisoners in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Blunt, who was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence when the report was written, calls the report “incomplete, unhelpful and not necessary’’ and says it provides “unhelpful detail” into activities that the CIA no longer engages in. Making the report public, Blunt asserted, puts Americans, the United States and its relationships with allied countries at risk.
McCaskill says the public dissemination of the report is necessary to document “a dark day: this period of time in our country’s history where we violated our values, where we embraced methods that were beyond the law and reflect poorly on the character of the national and, frankly, were not effective.”
The two senators – who often have worked together on other matters – offered their contrasting views of the CIA report in separate conference calls Wednesday with reporters.
The telephone interviews came a day after the Senate Intelligence Committee, now led by Democrats, released its findings, based on reviews of tens of thousands of pages of CIA documents. The release came now because Republicans – who opposed the report -- will take over the Senate, and the committee’s chairmanship, next month.
Blunt contended that the debate isn’t about partisanship, although Republicans uniformly disavow the report, but what is best for the country.
“You have a report done by one party, without interviewing any of the people involved…without understanding the context,” said Blunt, referring to the GOP’s decision to step away from the report several years ago.
The report’s release will likely make other countries warier of cooperating with the United States over similar matters, Blunt added. “It’s unhelpful because it creates challenges for people that represent us in other countries, and it creates challenges in us dealing with other countries who want to be helpful to us.”
Blunt explained, “No host country that we worked with after 9/11 wants to be higher on the terror retribution list because suddenly a previously undiscussed location” has become public because of the report.
“It’s just another reason to wonder how much faith you want to put in where the United States government is at, any given time," Blunt observed.
Aside from the security concerns, Blunt’s key point was that the report was needless because the United States had not engaged in such interrogation tactics for almost a decade.
McCaskill said that the public leaks of information over the years into the torture tactics, and the CIA’s abuses, helped lead to a change in policy. So did the quality of information received.
“There is absolutely no credible evidence that these methods led to good intelligence,’’ she said. The CIA wasn't "even keeping track of who was in these secret prisons,’’ which McCaskill called particularly “frightening.”
The report and its release, she said, represent “a fork in the road for this country.”
“Are we going to have oversight over the intelligence-gathering in this country, or are they going to be on their own?” she asked. “Do whatever they please, without anyone watching.”
McCaskill said that the report’s release also sets the United States apart, in a good way. She explained, “This report would never have been done by North Korea or China or Russia.”
She demurred over the call by some in the United Nations for prosecution of those responsible for the illegal acts. McCaskill said that issue is not for Congress to address.