With seven weeks left in office, democratic Senator Mark Udall has opened up about his potential intent to release classified information from the 6,000 plus page report that details harsh interrogation techniques employed by CIA agents in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Similar to Daniel Ellsberg‘s leaking of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 that were entered into congressional record by former democratic Senator Mike Gravel, Udall stands to be protected under the U.S. Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, should he choose to disclose this information before it is officially declassified.
Although the Obama administration is moving in the direction of declassifying the report, they have yet to reach a consensus on what specific information should be released to the public. Investigations revolving around 9/11 have been closed for approximately two years now, so it’s no surprise that a number of free-speech advocates, including Gravel, have encouraged Udall to rush the release himself.
“I’m not going to accept the release of any version of the executive summary that doesn’t get the truth of this program,” Udall said, as quoted in a recent article from the Denver Post. “Not only do we have to shed light on this dark chapter of our nation’s history, but we’ve got to make sure future administrations don’t repeat the grave mistakes.”
One of the big questions surrounding this controversy is who, if anyone, will ultimately benefit and learn from the reveal of the CIA’s cruel acts of torture used against suspected and confirmed Al-Qaeda operatives following 9/11? Gravel believes that it will be “of great benefit to the American people,” but I think it’s important to consider the idea that few people genuinely care, many are just curious. What I mean is that there are few American citizens who would be so deeply affected by the information that may be revealed enough to take some sort of active stand against the CIA agents and their torturous acts; most of us just want to know, to be informed of the horror. Also, I don’t foresee the storming of Guantanamo Bay by a group of enraged citizens after more knowledge is added to what we already know about some of the torture techniques used there, such as a near-drowning approach used on suspected terrorists known as waterboarding.
While I do believe that transparency is crucial for a trusting, productive relationship between the government and the people, I don’t necessarily think that the declassification and release of the CIA interrogation report to the public will directly benefit the American people, as Gravel believes. I believe that if Udall decides to go through with the information release, it would ultimately push those with political power to ensure that our nation finds better ways to deal with terrorism and the issues of humanity that surround it. The fact that the public is made aware of the report’s contents could certainly be used as leverage and incentive for CIA agents and political leaders to keep their decisions and actions in line. The report’s release would allow citizens to act as a sort of watchdog entity. The public still benefits, just more indirectly.
Collegian Columnist Haleigh McGill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.