We thought it might happen last Friday, but we’re still waiting. The Obama administration is preparing to declassify much of the 150-page top secret May 7, 2004 CIA inspector general’s report on torture. This report, written by now-retired CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson, is the subject of an ACLU lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. A heavily redacted version was released by the Bush administration last year.
Some of the findings and information from the inspector general’s report has appeared in other documents, but the report itself is known as the “Holy Grail.” Based on more than 100 interviews, a review of torture videotapes (since illegally destroyed) and 38,000 pages of documents, it contains unprecedented details about the torture of detainees, and reveals that no valuable intelligence was obtained through the use of torture.
Helgerson concluded in his report that CIA-approved interrogation procedures constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as defined by the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the United States in 1994. This finding of illegality, even in an internal document, caused alarm in the Bush administration. Helgerson was summoned repeatedly to meet privately with Vice President Cheney, then was ordered to cease his investigation.
In October 2007, CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden ordered an unusual internal inquiry into Helgerson’s office, focusing on complaints that Helgerson was on “a crusade against those who have participated in controversial detention programs.”
If we get to read most of it, the “Holy Grail” report ought to definitively (if not for the first time) expose the lies told by former President Bush and former VP Cheney. What the report won’t do is send anyone to prison– for that, we need the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor.
It’s important to remember that the CIA torture program was only one part of the Bush torture regime. The Department of Defense also tortured detainees at Guantanamo, at various Iraqi prison camps, at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and various other installations.
UPDATE: The CIA says no report today, but it will be provided “soon.”
UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman reports that the judge has granted the CIA an extension until August 24 to release the report.