Senate Panel Votes to Declassify CIA Torture Report

Lawmakers reassert their oversight authority by opting for the release.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. speaks before attending a closed-door meeting Thursday, April 3, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, voted Thursday to release part of the CIA torture report by a comfortable margin.

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After a long battle, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 11 to 3 Thursday to declassify part of a 6,300-page report detailing the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush administration.

The report now will be sent to President Barack Obama for official declassification. It is unclear how long that formal process could take, but the White House has signaled it will move forward to declassify the report.

[READ: Congress' Tortured Journey Back to CIA Oversight]

The strong bipartisan vote surprised many; just three members voted against declassification. A handful of Republicans on the committee said the report was hardly comprehensive and was partisan. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., abstained from the vote to declassify the report and called it “totally biased.” Others, even some who voted for the release, were frustrated their Republican staffs had been cut out of the research process.

Lawmakers who voted in favor of the report’s release touted the vote as an important step toward more vigorous oversight by the committee.

“I am appalled by the CIA’s inexplicable mismanagement of this program and failure to hold personnel accountable over several years,” Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said in a statement. “This report is a recognition of those failures, and as it sheds light on them, it is critical that it be used as an oversight tool to ensure that these unacceptable actions are never repeated.”

The intelligence committee’s investigation cost taxpayers $40 million, but reveals that after the Sept. 11 attacks the CIA for years engaged in harsh interrogation tactics that spanned from detainee abuse to waterboarding. News reports also suggest the unreleased report will show the interrogation techniques deployed were not effective and did not provide the CIA with any key details that led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden.

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The report goes on to suggest that the CIA lied to Congress and the Department of Justice about its practices, and that the agency punished employees who spoke out against torture and did not hold interrogators who used the techniques accountable for abuse.

“This detailed and rigorous document also identifies important lessons for the future, with regard both to the ineffectiveness of torture and to the CIA’s responsibilities in dealing honestly and transparently with policymakers and the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement.

While the report will go to the White House for declassification, the CIA also may get a say in what is redacted. Advocates hope the CIA is not permitted to play a large role in the declassification process, contending that would create a conflict of interest.

“The president faces what I believe should be a straightforward question. He can defer declassification decisions to the CIA – which has demonstrated an inability to face the truth about this program – or pass this authority to the Director of National Intelligence or hold on to the redaction pen himself," Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a statement.