WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 11-3 Thursday to ask President Obama to declassify key portions of a controversial report that its backers say disproves CIA claims that brutal interrogations of Al Qaeda captives helped thwart terrorist attacks and save American lives.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco), who chairs the committee, said members voted to declassify the 480-page executive summary as well as 20 findings and conclusions of the investigation into CIA detention and interrogations of more than 100 detainees during the George W. Bush administration.
"The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation," Feinstein said in a statement. "It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen."
The White House, the CIA and the Senate now will negotiate whether some details should be redacted, a process expected to take several months.
Aides working for Senate Democrats spent four years reviewing millions of pages of CIA documents to produce the 6,200-page final report. Democrats say it will provide a measure of public accountability for the CIA's use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, confinement in small places and other painful interrogation techniques after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Senate Republicans and CIA officials had criticized a draft of the report as inaccurate and misleading, but the vote Thursday was unexpectedly bipartisan. The panel's leading Republican, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and his next in line, Richard Burr of North Carolina, voted yes although they disagree with the report.
Dean Boyd, the CIA spokesman, said the agency would conduct a declassification review "expeditiously." He added, "The CIA has acknowledged and learned from the program's shortcomings and has taken corrective measures to prevent such mistakes from happening again. At the same time, we owe it to the men and women directed to carry out this program to try and ensure that any historical account of it is accurate."
Maine Sens. Angus King, an independent, and Susan Collins, a Republican, said the report shows "that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture" and raises "serious concerns about the CIA's management" of the detention program.
"Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA.'s detention and interrogation program never happen again," they said in a statement.
President Bush had defended the interrogation program in a 2006 speech, saying that Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida "began to provide information on key Al Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th."
Bush later wrote in his 2010 memoir, "Decision Points," that "The CIA interrogation program saved lives."
The report cites notes from former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who has long asserted that Zubaida provided his most significant information to the FBI before he was waterboarded by the CIA. Soufan has said the CIA misrepresented when and under what circumstances Zubaida talked.