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White House tries to delay CIA torture probe, report says

A delay could undo years of effort to uncover alleged human rights abuses by the CIA

A hotly anticipated Senate report accusing the Central Intelligence Agency of using banned torture techniques and evading oversight may never be released following White House efforts Friday to halt its publication, according to Bloomberg.

The report’s allegations, due to be made public next week, have been fiercely disputed by the CIA — and, according to the Obama administration, could compromise American foreign policy positions.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday reportedly called Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to tell her that the report’s release should be delayed.

While it’s not clear if Feinstein will comply with the reported request, a delay could scuttle the entire report, which she and others have spent years preparing. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., is due to replace Feinstein in January and could prevent the release entirely.

A senior GOP aide, according to the Bloomberg report, said, “There’s always a lot going on in the world, and the timing of the release of a report like this never convenient.”

"They should have thought about that a long time ago and advocated against the release."

But White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said Friday that the president hopes the report will be released soon. 

“The president has been clear that he wants the executive summary of the Committee’s report to be declassified as expeditiously as possible, and we welcomed the news from the Committee that they plan to do so next week," Earnest said.

The State Department said Kerry called Feinstein, and they discussed the implications of the report. Kerry, the State Department said, "made clear that the timing is of course her choice."

The Obama administration reportedly fears that the report could set off domestic and international uproar over CIA activities and U.S. security policies.

Harsh CIA interrogation techniques, which human rights campaigners and many U.S. politicians have characterized as "torture," took place under President George W. Bush but were banned by President Barack Obama. 

Officials familiar with the committee's investigation say the report concludes that there is no proof the techniques, including waterboarding, produced U.S. intelligence breakthroughs that could not have been obtained through non-coercive questioning.

Former intelligence and Bush administration officials who were involved with such interrogations strongly dispute that conclusion, maintaining that the techniques were necessary to obtaining information. 

In addition to waterboarding, U.S. officials who have read the report say it includes new details about the CIA's use of sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces and humiliation.

President Barack Obama has acknowledged, "We tortured some folks."

A phone message and email from The Associated Press to Feinstein's staff was not immediately returned.

Although the exact details of the report remain uncertain, U.S. ally Poland may play a role in the decision to bar publication. The report likely contains damning information about Warsaw hosting a CIA “black site” — or secret detention facility — in its territory, said Joseph Margulies, a lawyer who represented Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo Bay detainee held for more than 10 years without charges. Prior to being transferred to Guantanamo, Abu Zubaydah was held at a CIA site in Poland, Marguiles said.

The CIA operated the covert centers from 2002 to 2009 in Poland and other locations including Thailand, Morocco and Afghanistan, where intelligence officers tortured detainees, Marguiles said.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July that Warsaw knew or should have known that the CIA had a black site in its territory. The Court ordered Poland to pay two detainees it said had been held at black sites $135,000 and $175,000 respectively. Polish officials have since disputed the existence of black sites entirely, asking for an appeal.

The CIA torture report could completely discredit their denial, Margulies explained. “If Poland has its way, along with the CIA as well as some members of the Republican party, this document will never see the light of day.”

Al Jazeera and wire services. Wilson Dizard contributed reporting. 

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