TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

In the News

  • Senate CIA torture report: Overview
  • 7 key points from the report
  • 10 abuses from the report
  • CIA chief admits: “Made mistakes”
  • Obama walks fine line in statement
  • Feinstein, other lawmakers’ reax

  • Govt spending bill released, but…
  • Devil’s in the details
  • Immigration: Obama in Nashville
  • Kerry, Senators clash on ISIS
  • Gruber circus on the Hill


Senate Torture Report: Overview
• A scathing report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee found that the CIA routinely misled the WH and Congress about the information it obtained from the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, and that its methods were more brutal than the CIA acknowledged either to Bush admin officials or to the public (NYT, me)

• Specific details of the report are in stories below. The report took five years to produce and is based on more than six million internal agency documents. It’s a sweeping indictment of the CIA’s operation and oversight of a program carried out by agency officials and contractors in secret prisons around the world in the years after September 11, 2001

• During his admin, President George W. Bush repeatedly said that the detention and interrogation program, which President Obama dismantled when he succeeded him, was humane and legal. The intel gleaned from interrogations, he said, was instrumental in thwarting terrorism plots and in capturing senior figures of al Qaeda

• The report tries to refute these claims, using the CIA’s internal records to present 20 case studies that bolster its conclusion that the most extreme interrogation methods played no role in disrupting terrorism plots, capturing terrorist leaders – even finding Osama bin Laden


• The torture of prisoners at times was so extreme that some CIA personnel tried to put a halt to the techniques, but were told by senior agency officials to continue the interrogation sessions

• The report quotes 2002 cables: Within days of the DoJ’s approval to waterboarding the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, the sessions became so extreme that some CIA officers “were to the point of tears and choking up” and several said they would elect to be transferred out of the facility if the brutal interrogations continued

• During one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive with water bubbles rising through his full, open mouth.” Interrogations lasted for weeks. Some CIA officers began sending messages to HQ in VA questioning the utility – and legality – of what they were going. But such questions were rejected

• The report said that the CIA’s leadership for years gave false info about the total number of prisoners held by the CIA, saying there had been 98 when CIA records showed that 119 men had been held. In late 2008, a CIA official giving a briefing expressed concern. Director Hayden told the person “to keep the number at 98.”


• Many Republicans have said that the report is an attempt to smear both the CIA and the Bush WH, and that the report cherry-picked info to support a claim that the CIA’s detention program yielded no valuable info. Former CIA officials have already begun a vigorous public campaign to dispute the report’s findings

• In its response to the report, the CIA said that to accept the Intel Committee’s conclusions, “there would have had to have been a yearslong conspiracy among CIA leaders at all levels, supported by a large number of analysts and other line officers.”

• The report described repeated efforts by the CIA to make the case that the interrogations were legal and saved lives, even when the facts didn’t support it. The CIA helped edit a speech by Bush in 2006 to make it seem as if key intel was obtained through the most brutal interrogation tactics, even when CIA records suggested otherwise

• Taken in its entirety, the report is a portrait of a spy agency that was wholly unprepared for its new mission as jailers and interrogators – but that embraced its assignment with vigor

• The report chronicles millions of dollars in secret payments between 2002 and 2004 from the CIA to foreign officials, aimed at getting other govts to agree to host secret prisons. Cables from CIA HQ to field offices said overseas officers should put together wish lists for what foreign govts might want in exchange. As one 2003 cable put it: “Think big.”

• Read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture

CIA Torture Report: 7 Key Points
• The CIA’s interrogation techniques were more brutal and employed more extensively than the agency portrayed. Report describes detainees being subjected to sleep deprivation for up to a week, medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” and death threats. Conditions at a prison described as a “dungeon” by a senior CIA operative were blamed for the death of a detainee (NYT)

• The CIA interrogation program was mismanaged and wasn’t subject to adequate oversight. Report cites dissatisfaction among intel officers about the competence and training of interrogators. The architects of the program had never carried out a real interrogation. The CIA resisted congressional oversight, restricted access to info, declined to answer questions

• The CIA misled members of Congress and the WH about the effectiveness and extent of its brutal interrogation techniques. Report says a review of cases, in which the agency claims to have collected “actionable intel” it would have been unable to get by other means, calls into question the connection between the info and any “counterterrorism success.” – contd next –

• The report includes dozens of examples from director Michael Hayden’s 12 April 2007 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee that highlight how his statements directly contradicted internal CIA records (no space here)


• Interrogators in the field who tried to stop the brutal techniques were repeatedly overruled by senior CIA officials

• The CIA repeatedly underreported the number of people it detained and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques under the program. The agency said it detained “fewer than 100 individuals.” But a review of agency records indicated it held 119. It also underreported the number of detainees who were subjected to torture

• At least 26 detainees were wrongfully held and didn’t meet the govt’s standard for detention. One was an “intellectually challenged” man who was used as “leverage” to obtain info from a family member, also there were two former intel sources and two individuals identified as threats by a detainee subject to torture

• The CIA leaked classified info to journalists, exaggerating the success of interrogation methods in an effort to gain public support. But the agency didn’t push to prosecute or investigate many of the leaks. The CIA also mischaracterized events and provided false of incomplete info to the news media in an effort to gain public support
• Read the rebuttal from the Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee

10 Abuses from the Report
• One detainee, Abu Hudhaifa, was subjected to “ice water baths” and “66 hours of standing sleep deprivation” before being released because the CIA realized it probably had the wrong man (Salon, Mother Jones, me)

• “CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families – to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to “cut
[a detainee’s] mother’s throat.”

• A detainee was tortured for not addressing an interrogator as “sir” – and for complaining about a stomach ache. “Further, despite CIA policy at the time to keep detainees under constant light for security purposes, bin al-Shibh was kept in total darkness to heighten his sense of fear.”

• “The plan stated that bin al-Shibh would be shackled nude with his arms overhead in a cold room prior to any discussion with interrogators or any assessment of his level of cooperation.”

• CIA officers were “profoundly affected …some on the point of tears and choking up” when they witnessed the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah

Rectal Feeding, Dungeon
• Agency interrogators forced at least five detainees to undergo “rectal feeding” or “rectal rehydration” even in the absence of any “documented medical necessity.” Among the most prominent prisoners was Khalid Sheikh Mohammad

• In at least one instance, the CIA chief of interrogation placed a broomstick between the knees of a detainee while the detainee was in a stress position – suggesting that the detainee was at risk of being sodomized

• The CIA’s Cobalt facility, one senior officer quoted says, was a “dungeon.” With detainees often kept in “complete darkness,” loud music blaring, and detainees allowed to use only a bucket to relieve themselves

• At the same facility, some detainees who had sustained either broken legs or feet were made to stand in stress positions, the committee found

• “Multiple psychologists” warned of a wide range of mental health problems by shutting detainees off from human contact, but the agency often ignored the warnings. Multiple detainees demonstrated severe mental health issues, including “hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation.”
Interactive: History of the CIA’s secret interrogation program (NYT)
CIA Chief Admits Agency “Made Mistakes”
• CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement, “While the agency made mistakes, the record does not support the Study’s inference that the Agency systematically and intentionally misled each of these audiences [Congress, exec branch, public] on the effectiveness of the program.” (WaPo, Hill, TRNS, me)

• “As noted in the Minority views and in a number of additional views of Members, no interviews were conducted of any CIA officers involved in the program, which would have provided Members with valuable context and perspective surrounding these events.”

• Senate Democrats have have they chose not to interview agency officers who worked on the program to ensure that the inquiry didn’t hamper a separate Justice Dept probe

• “In carrying out that program, we did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves and that the American people expect of us,” Brennan said. “As an Agency, we have learned from those mistakes, which is why my predecessors and I have implemented various remedial measures over the years to address institutional deficiencies.”

• Brennan asserted: “Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom [enhanced] interrogation techniques were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives.”

• George Tenet, who was CIA Director through much of the Bush admin, said the report is “biased, inaccurate and destructive.” “It is indeed a dark day for congressional oversight.”
Obama Walks Fine Line
• In a statement Tuesday, President Obama said, “The previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values.”

• Obama praised CIA employees as “patriots” to whom “we owe a profound debt of gratitude” for protecting the country after the Sept 11 2001 attacks. But he said the brutal treatment of detainees – he didn’t directly call it torture – wrought “significant damage to America’s standing in the world” and should never be repeated (NYT, TRNS, me)

• “No nation is perfect, but one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong – in the past.”

• Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said in a statement in Geneva Tuesday, that the report revealed a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration.” “As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice.” (Reuters)

Feinstein, Other Lawmakers’ Reax
• Waving a massive 500-page report during an hourlong Senate speech on Tuesday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said, “The CIA’s actions a decade ago are a stain on our values and on our history.” She asserted, “this nation should never again engage in these tactics.” (Hill, TRNS, me)

• Feinstein accused the CIA of repeatedly stonewalling the WH, DoJ and overseers of Congress throughout the course of the programs. She cited one incident, quoting a CIA official who fretted that then-SecState Colin Powell “would blow his stack if he were briefed” on the program

• Rep Mike Rogers (R-MI), retiring head of the House Intelligence Committee, Tuesday said releasing the report “will only inflame our enemies, risk the lives of those who continue to sacrifice on our behalf, and undermine the very organization we continuously ask to do the hardest jobs in the toughest places.”

• Vid: Former Vietnam POW Sen John McCain (R-AZ) gives stirring speech against torture on the Senate floor Tuesday (TPM)

• Sen John Cornyn (R-TX) called the report “troubling for a variety of reasons.” He said that the interrogation techniques “saved American lives, and Senate Democrats should thank these brave men and women who worked to protect us – not vilify them.”

• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on the Senate floor, “The only way our country can put this episode in the past is to confront what happened.” “Not only is torture wrong, but it doesn’t work. It got us nothing but a bad name.”

• Sen John McCain (R-AZ), a former Vietnam POW, said on the Senate floor Tuesday, “I have long believed some of these activities amount to torture.” The Bush-era tactics “stained our national honor. They did much harm and did little good.”

Govt Spending Bill Released – But…
• With roughly 51 hours left before the govt runs out of cash, lawmakers released the text Tuesday night of a massive 289,861-word, $1.013 million bill to keep federal agencies running past 11 December (Roll Call, Hill, Politico, NYT, WaPo, me)

• The spending package, a carefully negotiated bill between the Republican House and Democratic Senate, would fund the vast majority of govt operations through Sept with the notable exception of the Dept of Homeland Security. That’s only funded to 27 Feb. Republicans want to tighten the purse strings on the agency charged with carrying out most immigration

• The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on the legislation at 3 pm today, and the House is expected to then vote on the bill Thursday. That would leave hardly any time for the Senate to work through any procedural hurdles any one senator could impose on the bill to slow it down

• While the House hasn’t begun putting together a two- or three-day continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown, aides acknowledge there’s a strong possibility they “have to move a stopgap CR when they vote on the cromnibus

• The condensed timetable hardly gives lawmakers time to read the 1,603 page bill. If members average 200 words per minute (!) to read the dense legislative text, they would need 24 hours just to get through the bill. But most will be operating off executive summaries

Devil’s in the Details
• The bill would provide $554 billion for defense activities and $492 billion for non-defense budget caps. Under defense activities, the bill would provide $64 billion for overseas contingency ops and would give military and civilian personnel a 1% pay raise. Also $5.4 billion for Ebola and $6.5 billion for disaster aid

• The bill continues to block federal funds on abortion, but it wouldn’t include new so-called “conscience clauses” that would have denied employees certain reproductive health benefits under insurance plans. Many conservatives wanted those provisions

• The major contention conservatives will levy against the bill is that it doesn’t block President Obama’s immigration executive action. The question is whether those members – particularly in the Senate – will use procedural tactics to delay the bill. Doing so could throw the govt into a shutdown

• On the Democratic side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made it clear that the public shouldn’t expect House Democrats to collectively take a position for or against the measure until at least this morning

• As recently as Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi expressed concern at a closed-door meeting about reported GOP attempts to include language targeting the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, the financial regulatory overhaul. Tuesday night, it was revealed that Republicans had succeeded in rolling back a portion of that law
• Senate Republicans huddled behind closed-doors Tuesday to debate whether they should reverse changes to the filibuster rule made by Democrats. While many expressed anger and outrage that Dems made it easier to confirm nominees, now that GOP’s in charge, they may be leaning toward keeping the rule – no decision yet (Politico, Hill, me)



Immigration: Obama in Nashville
• President Obama visited a Nashville community center on Tuesday in a bid to pressure congressional Republicans to pass immigration reform, but he conceded, “Does that mean everybody’s going to listen to me on the other side? Not necessarily. They’re pretty sure I’m an illegal immigrant,” he quipped (Hill)

• Obama blasted House Republicans for passing a bill that would roll back his executive actions that could shield an estimated 5 million people from deportation and provide them with work permits. “So far the only response we’ve had out of the House was a vote taken last week to force talented young people and workers to leave our country,” he said

• Obama said he recognized there “are controversies around immigration.” “They’re not new. As a country, we have had these concerns since the Irish and Italians and Poles were coming to Boston and New York, and had the same concerns when Chinese and Japanese Americans were traveling out West.”

• Following a brief speech, he fielded questions from audience members. One asked if signing up for the new program would derail chances of obtaining citizenship through another means, while another wondered if a future president could use the program to target individuals who had self-identified as illegal immigrants for deportations

• Vid: President Obama ad Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos sparred over immigration Tuesday, repeatedly cutting each other off. and correcting each other Pretty tense stuff (Buzzfeed, Fusion, me)

Kerry, Senators Clash on ISIS
• SecState John Kerry on Tuesday urged Congress not to preclude the use of ground forces to fight ISIS as lawmakers consider setting limits on the nature and extent of American involvement in the military campaign against the group (NYT, Hill me)

• Kerry underscored that the admin was prepared to negotiate over a measure authorizing the use of force and that ground forces will not be deployed, “It doesn’t mean that we should pre-emptively bind the hands of the commander in chief or our commanders in the field in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee.”

• Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) said – sharply – that a resolution that allows the admin to go after groups that have “pledged allegiance” to ISIS would mean the U.S. could bomb Middle East cities such as Medina, Saudi Arabia. “No one’s talking about bombing everywhere,” Kerry replied during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing

• Sen John McCain (R-AZ) scolded Kerry: “Tell me how you justify morally telling young Syrians to go and fight in Syria and then allow them to be barrel-bombed by Assad.” Kerry, who used to chair the committee as a Dem senator from MA, responded that the opposition, especially in the north, was fighting both ISIS and the Assad regime

• McCain and Kerry interrupted each other several times, with McCain reiterating that 200,000 Syrians have been “butchered” by Assad while the admin has no strategy to deal with it. It was “disingenuous,” Kerry retorted, to suggest nothing was being considered to deal with Assad – and offered to brief McCain in a classified session. McCain ran out of time and left the room
• A new report from the Treasury IG for Tax Administration says the IRS paid out at least $5.9 billion in improper payments of the additional child tax credit in fiscal year 2013, or about 25 to 30% of total payments. May ramp up the debate over undocumented workers getting govt benefits (Hill, me)
Gruber Circus on the Hill
• MIT professor Jonathan Gruber came to Capitol Hill Tuesday, summoned by House Republicans to explain his caught-on-tape remark that passage of Obamacare, on which he was a prominent consultant, relied on the “stupidity of the American voter.” WaPo, Hill, TRNS, me)

• The denunciation of his remarks was brutal: “Glib, thoughtless … uninformed … mean and insulting … uncalled for in any context … demeaning … inexcusable arrogance.” And those were Gruber’s words

• House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked Gruber: “Are you stupid?” / “I don’t think so, no,” the bespectacled Gruber, slouched over the witness table behind his PhD namecard, replied./ “Does MIT employ stupid people?” /”Not to my knowledge./ “So you’re a smart man, who said…some really stupid things?” /Gruber accepted that characterization

• Gruber wouldn’t say how much he received in federal and state contracts related to healthcare reform. “Gruber testified and did not disclose he was being paid by the Obama administration. That is deception at its highest form!” yelled Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH) “Give me a dollar amount. You’re not going to answer the question?”

• Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) ripped into Gruber, calling his remarks “stupid, absolutely stupid,” “irresponsible, incredibly disrespectful” and insulting.” “You gave the opponents of the [Affordable Care Act] a PR gift. You did a great job, you wrapped it up with a bow.”

• It was the last scheduled hearing under Issa’s chairmanship. When Cummings noted the new oil painting of Issa on the wall behind them and referred to the “hanging of your portrait,” Issa interrupted with an R-rated response: “Thank you for saying I was hung.”

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Paayal Zaveri, Leah Schwarting, Loretta Lewis and Washington Desk contributed to this report


The Talk Radio News Service is the only information, news booking and host service dedicated to serving the talk radio community. TRNS maintains a Washington office that includes White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau. Talk Radio News Service has permanent access to every breaking newsevent in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.