Originally published on January 9, 2015, at NationofChange.org
Before stepping down as Chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to President Obama enumerating her recommendations to prevent the CIA from committing further acts of torture. Sent on December 30, 2014, but made public on Monday, the letter acknowledges the existence of legislative loopholes allowing future administrations to reauthorize the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Although Feinstein urges stronger oversight of CIA programs and holding intelligence officials accountable, the GOP-led Senate is unlikely to enact her proposals.
Releasing the heavily redacted Executive Summary of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program on December 9, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee detailed several acts of abuse and torture committed by the CIA during the incessant war on terror. According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of human rights violations and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations. The Committee also accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the questionable backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats against detainees’ family members, and reliability of information obtained through torture.
According to her letter to the president, Sen. Feinstein recommends closing all torture loopholes buried within the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the U.S. Army Field Manuel, and Executive Order 13491. She notes that the Office of Legal Counsel interpreted the Detainee Treatment Act to allow the CIA to use coercive and abusive interrogation techniques. Intelligence community personnel are not limited to conducting only the interrogation techniques listed in the U.S. Army Field Manuel. And although Obama’s Executive Order 13491 revokes Bush’s Executive Order 13440, a future president could just as easily revoke Obama’s order ensuring lawful interrogations.
Feinstein also recommends requiring the U.S. government to notify the Red Cross and provide timely access to captured detainees. According to the report, CIA officer Matthew Zirbel left black site detainee Gul Rahman beaten and half-naked from the waist down in an unheated cell overnight while shackled to a wall in November 2002. Rahman was found dead of hypothermia the next day. In a case of mistaken identity, German citizen Khalid El-Masri endured months of beatings and forced rectal suppositories before being released without charges.