As CIA chief John Brennan defended the spy agency’s interrogation program for terror suspects Thursday, a senior senator whose committee published a damning report on the practice contested his claims.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s staff repeatedly used the hashtag #ReadTheReport on the senator’s Twitter feed during Brennan’s rare press conference broadcast live from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Brennan said it was “unknowable” whether key information from suspects subjected to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), which critics have equated to torture, could have been obtained through other methods.
But Feinstein’s staff responded: “Study shows it IS knowable: CIA had info before torture. #ReadTheReport.”
The senator’s office said she watched the press conference on television while her staff provided facts via Twitter.
Feinstein released part of the report Tuesday after a long wrangle with the administration over what should be redacted about the program to interrogate detainees linked to Al-Qaeda in the wake of the September 11 attacks on US soil in 2001.
She said that the 500-page executive summary made public so far was only a small part of a 6,700-page report and denied that lawmakers had cherry-picked damning material.
“500-page exec summary is small part of 6,700-page report. No cherry picking. Everything is documented by 38,000 footnotes. #ReadTheReport,” Feinstein said on Twitter.
“CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, DOD, NGA, State Dept, DHS and many other agencies help keep us safe. Torture does not. #ReadTheReport.”
Brennan insisted the CIA had not lied to the public or lawmakers.
But Feinstein said: “Full Senate Intel Committee not briefed until four years after program began, hours before it was made public. #ReadTheReport.”
The program was revealed in 2006, before Feinstein took up her post at the helm of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The powerful Democratic senator also argued with Brennan’s claims that the interrogation program had helped US intelligence in the operation that led to the assassination of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
“Study definitively proves EITs did not lead to bin Laden. Page 378,” a tweet from her office said.
The around two dozen tweets from the senator, who had previously made only moderate use of Twitter, show how the fight over the CIA’s legacy on interrogation is also being fought on social media.
The mostly Democratic supporters of the report are seeking to counter the media blitz of former CIA chiefs and their Republican supporters, including from president George W. Bush’s administration.
The report into the US intelligence agency’s abuse of Al-Qaeda suspects in a network of secret prisons around the world between 2002 and 2009 triggered global outrage and demands for justice.
The Senate Intelligence Committee and its staff spent nearly six years drafting the document, reviewing more than 6.3 million pages of documents.