J. Scott Applewhite, File, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The State Department has endorsed the broad conclusions of a harshly critical Senate report on the CIA's interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks, a report that accuses the agency of brutally treating terror suspects and misleading Congress, according to a White House document.
"This report tells a story of which no American is proud," says the four-page White House document, which contains the State Department's preliminary proposed talking points in response to the classified Senate report, a summary of which is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
"But it is also part of another story of which we can be proud," adds the document, which was circulating this week among White House officials and which the White House accidentally emailed to an Associated Press reporter. "America's democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values."
It's not clear who wrote the document or how influential it will be in tailoring the Obama administration's ultimate response to an investigation that has been the subject of bitter disputes. It is common practice for the White House to solicit talking points from key agencies involved in responding to a major news event, which the release of the Senate report will be.
The Senate report concludes that CIA's techniques on al-Qaida detainees captured after the 2001 attacks were far more brutal than previously understood. The tactics failed to produce life-saving intelligence, the report asserts, and the CIA misled Congress and the Justice Department about the interrogation program.
Current and former CIA officials hotly dispute those findings, as do some Senate Republicans. The fight over the report has poisoned the relationship between the CIA and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and left the White House in a delicate position. President Barack Obama has branded some CIA techniques torture and ordered them stopped, but he also relies heavily on the spy agency, which still employs hundreds of people who were involved in some way in the interrogation program.
The report does not draw the legal conclusion that the CIA's actions constituted torture, though it makes clear that in some cases they amounted to torture by a common definition, two people who have read the report said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the still-classified document publicly by name.
The Senate report, the State Department proposes to say, "leaves no doubt that the methods used to extract information from some terrorist suspects caused profound pain, suffering and humiliation. It also leaves no doubt that the harm caused by the use of these techniques outweighed any potential benefit."
Those methods included slapping, humiliation, exposure to cold, sleep deprivation and the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
The White House document is significant because it also reveals some of the State Department's concerns about how the CIA's tactics will be portrayed around the world.
The document lists a series of questions that appear to be designed to gauge what reporters, members of Congress and others might ask about the Obama administration's response to the Senate report. The document focuses in particular on the State Department's role.
"Doesn't the report make clear that at least some who authorized or participated in the RDI program committed crimes?" the document asks, referring to the program's formal internal name, the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program. "Will the Justice Department revisit its decision not to prosecute anyone?"
And: "Until now the (U.S. government) has avoided conceding that the techniques used in the RDI program constituted torture. Now that the report is released is the White House prepared to concede that people were tortured?"
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