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Senate intelligence panel questions value of CIA secret detentions

[JURIST] The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website] questioned whether the secret CIA detention and interrogation program "is the best means to obtain a full and reliable intelligence debriefing of a detainee" in a report [PDF text] published Thursday to accompany the 2008 intelligence appropriations bill [S 1538, PDF]. The report said that both the Congress and the Executive "must continue to evaluate" whether the controversial program is necessary, lawful, and pursuant to the best interest of the United States, emphasizing that "the complications [the program] causes to any ultimate prosecution of [terrorists], and the damage... to the [international] image of the United States" should be considered.

The committee also characterized the "Administration's decision to withhold the program's existence from the full Committee membership for five years" as unfortunate because it "unnecessarily hindered congressional oversight of the program." The committee urged the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to produce a legal review of the program, which the DOJ has failed to do after the Supreme Court's June 2006 decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [opinion text; JURIST news archive] and the passage of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) [text] and Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text]. The report was approved 12-3 by the committee, with the support of all eight Democratic senators and four of the seven Republican senators.

The committee also addressed the "Administration's proposals and possible alternatives" to amend [JURIST report] the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive], saying that it could not review the proposed revisions until the White House releases key documents such as the "President's orders authorizing the warrantless surveillance and the Department of Justice opinions on the legality of the program." The report also documented a May 23 closed session in which Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) proposed cutting funding to interrogation techniques utilized by the CIA that go beyond the Army's FM 2-22.2 Intelligence Interrogation Field Manuel [PDF text], which requires military interrogators to adhere to the Third and Fourth Geneva Convention [texts]. The proposal was narrowly defeated by one vote when Democratic Senator Bill Nelson (D-FA) joined the seven Republican senators on the committee. The New York Times has more.

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