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Senate Intelligence Committee Weighing Review of CIA Interrogation Tactics

Maybe it was the recent Gallup poll showing that more than 62 percent of Americans favor some sort of investigation into alleged Bush administration lawbreaking, but a source on Capitol Hill said the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is considering launching an inquiry into the CIA’s “extreme” interrogation practices used in connection with the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”

The idea, the Hill source said, is to begin a review of the interrogation techniques that were used during the Bush era, how they were approved and to what degree, if any, they were successful.

If such an inquiry were to happen, it would likely be conducted by the committee itself and would not preclude a separate “truth commission” along the lines of what Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has proposed, or an investigative commission like the one proposed by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). Both of those options would be broader investigations into potential lawbreaking by Bush administration officials, and would look not only into the CIA but into the roles of all government agencies and Congress.

Although details were not yet available, advocates who’ve been hoping for such a move were thrilled to hear it was under consideration. “It sounds terrific,” said Chris Anders, legislative counsel to the ACLU, reached this afternoon.

The intelligence committee review sounds much like the investigation of the treatment of detainees undertaken by the Senate Armed Services Committee, although the intelligence committee would likely focus on the CIA, whereas the Armed Services Committee focused on the role of the Pentagon. That report concluded that senior officials in the Bush administration had authorized the abusive tactics. A summary of the report was released in December, although the full report remains classified.

“The missing piece is what happened in the CIA,” Anders said. While the ACLU has asked the CIA to produce documents concerning the treatment of detainees in a Freedom of Information Act case that’s been pending for five years, “the CIA has not produced a single sheet of paper yet,” Anders said. “Nothing.”

A Senate intelligence committee review may ultimately provide that missing piece of the puzzle. Anders said he hopes that the committee will hold public hearings as part of its query and release the full final report.

If the intelligence committee were to find evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the process of its review, it could refer the evidence to the Department of Justice to consider prosecution.

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