Following release of Senate torture report, CIA goes on defense

The agency’s often-jokey Twitter account cut out the levity Tuesday and directed people to an online fact sheet about the detention program detailed in the report.

The New York Times described the Select Senate Intelligence Committee’s recently released report on a CIA program of interrogation of terrorism suspects as “a withering judgment.”

That’s one of the most diplomatic descriptions of the document, which describes practices such as depriving detainees of sleep, “ice water baths,” “rectal feeding,” and threatening detainees’ children. Mother Jones called the actions described in the report “awful abuses,” and many referred to what took place as torture.

In response, the CIA has released a slew of information, not necessarily defending its actions, but defending the agency in general.

A statement from Director John O. Brennan includes the closest thing to a CIA apology as has been issued:

As noted in CIA’s response to the study, we acknowledge that the detention and interrogation program had shortcomings and that the Agency made mistakes. The most serious problems occurred early on and stemmed from the fact that the Agency was unprepared and lacked the core competencies required to carry out an unprecedented, worldwide program of detaining and interrogating suspected al-Qa’ida and affiliated terrorists. In carrying out that program, we did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves and that the American people expect of us.

Brennan’s statement goes on to offer points of contention with the committee report, particularly the assertion that the CIA widely misled the public, Congress and even President George W. Bush about the program.

The CIA’s often-humorous Twitter account cut out the jokes Tuesday and instead only tweeted links to a lengthy fact sheet about the interrogation program. The fact sheet states that the program ended in 2009. It acknowledges “serious mistakes” in the program, but also asserts that it provided “valuable and unique intelligence.”

Though the CIA account stopped joking, that wasn’t true of the Twitter users who replied to the CIA’s tweets. Some shot back with apparent sarcasm:

Some joked about the tone the CIA usually strikes on Twitter:

Others were more direct:

A group of former CIA officials has started a website called CIA Saved Lives to defend the program and discredit the Senate report. “We deceived no one. You will not find this truth in the Majority Report,” an introduction statement on the website states.

Though that site and its arguments certainly have some political traction, the report has assuredly done reputational damage to the CIA.

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