Future politicking spurs Obama’s fears of torture report release: expert

Six years in the making, the long-awaited report is expected to be released within days

Paul Crompton
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An obstacle to the release of a U.S. Senate report examining the use of torture by the CIA – which has sparked fears from foreign allies worried that the report could incite violence in the Middle East – may be stifled by the White House due to fears of future rival reports from a Republican-controlled Senate, a former U.S. lawmaker told Al Arabiya News.

Six years in the making, the long-awaited report – complied by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee – is expected to be released within days.

But on Friday, the Obama administration appeared to have cold feet about its release, with Secretary of State John Kerry warning committee leader and fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein that foreign allies were worried that the report could incite violence in the Middle East, the New York Times reported.

Due to fears of unrest that could be triggered from the report’s release, the Pentagon will be warning military combatant commanders overseas that the report will be coming out and that they should assess their security situation, an unidentified senior defense official was quoted last week by the Associated Press as saying.

The report amounts to the first public accounting of the CIA’s use of torture on Al-Qaeda detainees held in secret facilities in Europe and Asia in the years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the AP.

According to many U.S. officials who have read it, the document, which was six years in the making, includes new details about the CIA’s use of such techniques as sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces, humiliation and the simulated drowning process known as waterboarding. President Barack Obama has acknowledged, “We tortured some folks.”

Michael Flanagan, a former Republican congressman, told Al Arabiya News that the White House’s apparent reluctance to release the report – despite it being authored by Democrats – is due to a fear of future reports against Obama’s own administration from a Republican-controlled Senate.

Obama himself is concerned about “his future relationship with Republicans who will be generating similar reports about his administration,” Flanagan said.

“Because the Republicans are coming right behind and are capable of developing reports of their own, in a similar way, about his use of drones, about his use of lies and distortions regarding foreign policy efforts, and foreign policy failures … I don’t think he’s looking forward to having that fight.”

New urgency

With control of the Senate about to change hands from Democrat to Republican, many Democrats believe that the new Senate will also try to block the report from publication – giving a “new urgency” for Democrats led by committee chief Feinstein to negotiate for its release with the White House, according to the New York Times.

However, some analysts believe that the Obama administration’s warnings - echoed by House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican – are accurate.

The publicly released report will likely “be used by those in the Middle East and beyond who wish to depict the United States in negative ways,” Stephen Kinzer, a U.S.-based journalist and foreign policy analyst, told Al Arabiya News.

Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, defended the White House’s reluctance to release the report.

“There is more to the matter than Obama’s popularity, especially in the last two years of his second term in office. What is at stake is the image of the U.S. as a premier state that prides itself with the world’s oldest constitution still in use,” Khashan said.

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