Briefed to Congress
The CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence prepared a Top-Secret “Overview of CIA-Congress Interactions Concerning the Agency’s Rendition-Detention-Interrogation Program,” which has recently been declassified. The Overview, which is available for download, details how the CIA repeatedly briefed Congress on the RDI Program, including the details of enhanced interrogation techniques. As discussed below, if shows that Members and staff did not object to the techniques until they became unpopular, that a Senator urged the CIA not to be “risk adverse,” and that Senator Feinstein did not object to the continued use of enhanced techniques from November 2006 to April 2007, except that she preferred that the Agency not use female interrogators with male detainees because of her concerns with nudity.
- The Overview – which describes without hesitation Agency missteps in administering the RDI program – concludes: ““Once the EITs had passed DoJ review, the Agency's senior leadership made a good faith effort to keep the oversight committee leaders fully briefed on the program [redacted]. While verbatim transcripts of the briefings, or even summaries of all the briefings, were not available, the records that do exist show that Senators Bob Graham, Richard Shelby, Pat Roberts, and Jay Rockefeller, along with Representatives Porter Goss, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, and Peter Hoekstra all received detailed briefings on the EITs, the program's safeguards, and the information gained from the detainees during the program's most active years, 2002 to 2005.” (p.1-2)
- The CIA briefed the leadership of the House and Senate intelligence committees on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques the month after they were authorized, in early September 2002. Contemporaneous records state that the briefings to Senators Graham and Shelby and Representatives Goss and Pelosi (and their staff) covered “a history of the Zubaydah interrogation, an overview of the material acquired, the resistance techniques Zubaydah had employed, and the reason for deciding to use the enhanced measures,” as well as a description of “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” (p. 8)
- In February of 2003, the CIA briefed new leadership of the intelligence committees on the RDI program, including the enhanced interrogation techniques. The briefings, which now included Senator Rockefeller’s staff and Representative Harman, covered eleven enhanced techniques: “attention grasp, walling, sleep deprivation, facial hold, abdominal slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress position, diapers, insects, and waterboarding.” In addition, the CIA briefed Members and staff on the use of unauthorized techniques against one detainee and the death of another detainee at a facility outside the RDI Program, both of which were under investigation. (p. 9-11).
- In September 2003, the CIA again briefed the leadership of the intelligence committees and their staff, this time with Senator Rockefeller present in person. “None of the members expressed any reservations or objections to the Program.” (p. 13). Later that year, SSCI senior staff would even visit and tour a CIA detention facility. (p. 14)
- The CIA Inspector General (“IG”) briefed the leadership of the intelligence committees and their staffs on his critical review of the RDI Program in July 2004. He noted that there had been “considerable substantive success” and that “terrorists and terrorist cells [had been] run to ground.” (p. 16) At one of these briefings, when the CIA General Counsel explained that the program had been suspended pending new DOJ guidance, Senator Rockefeller said that the CIA “needs to avoid risk aversion.” (p. 17)
- The CIA IG later summarized these briefings: “Obviously, no member has read the report with great care, although all had seen staff summaries and some . . . tended to leaf through the document and find issues that were of interest as we talked.” (p. 17) In early March 2005, the CIA IG followed up with SSCI on detention and interrogation-related investigations in his office. He later noted: “The SSCI had previously been informed of all our cases and reviews, but I think it is safe to say the leadership had never really paid all that close attention until lately.” (p. 17)
- After additional briefings and leaks about the RDI Program, and following the passage of the Military Commissions Act, then Director of the Central Intelligence Mike Hayden briefed the full SSCI on the RDI Program and use of enhanced techniques in November 2006. According to contemporaneous records, Senator Feinstein:
- Stated that “[t]here is a limit needed on the amount of sleep deprivation.” (Director Hayden explained that there was.) (p. 24)
- “[A]sked if detainees are fed during sleep deprivation.” (Director Hayden explained that they were.) (p. 24)
- “[A]sked if the EITs are ranked in any particular order and how the Agency guards against abuse.” (Director Hayden explained the protocols in place.) (p. 24)
- “[A]sked about nudity and whether the Agency ever had personnel of the opposite sex present, saying that the Agency should not have women officers with male detainees.” (Director Hayden replied that “some of CIA’s best interrogators were females but that he would take the Senator’s question and consider it further.”) (p. 24)
- Months later, within days of former Senator Russ Feingold writing Director Hayden to express his opposition to the continuation of enhanced interrogation techniques, Senators Feinstein, Wyden, and Hagel wrote Director Hayden to express their opposition as well. They wrote: “It is inevitable that details of the detention and interrogation operations will become public eventually . . . . We believe the public reaction to this information, both domestically and around to [sic] the world, will be catastrophically damaging.”