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Maine senators back interrogation report release

WASHINGTON — Two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday announced their support for declassifying parts of a long-delayed report on the CIA’s defunct detention and interrogation program, all but assuring that the committee will approve the report and send it to President Obama for release.

The announcement by Maine’s two senators — Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent — effectively ended any suspense about whether the committee’s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, will have enough votes to declassify the voluminous report’s conclusions and executive summary, which are said to make up about 400 pages of the 6,300-page report. The committee’s other Republicans oppose the conclusions of the report, but support from Collins and King for releasing the report will give a veneer of cooperation to the committee’s vote.

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The vote on the report, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, will bring at least partial closure to the years of partisan jousting on the committee about the report, which sets out to tell the history of what is perhaps the most controversial response by the Bush administration to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

People who have read the report say it is unsparing in its criticism of the CIA’s brutal interrogation methods, and makes the case that the spy agency repeatedly misled Congress, the White House, and the public about the value of the program.

Feinstein has said that when the committee approves the report she will send it directly to the White House for declassification. Obama has said he supports the report’s public release, but it is uncertain how long the declassification process could take.

The vote Thursday will come in the midst of a public dispute between the CIA and the Intelligence Committee over whether the agency conducted an unlawful search of computers used by committee staff members who were examining documents for the report at a CIA facility in Virginia. CIA officials believe that the committee gained unauthorized access to restricted parts of the agency’s computer network. The Justice Department is reviewing the charges made by both sides in the dispute.

In their announcement, the two senators said the report’s findings “lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture” and raise “serious concerns about the CIA’s management” of the detention program, which Obama ended in 2009.

Key votes from Maine

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“Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program never happen again,” the statement said.

But the two senators also challenged the way the report was compiled, criticizing it for relying solely on documents and for not also incorporating the views of either CIA or other executive branch officials. It is partly for this reason that Republican members of the committee stopped participating in the investigation and have criticized the report as a one-sided attempt to smear the CIA and the Bush administration.

The committee is also expected Thursday to vote to declassify both the Republican dissent from the report’s conclusions as well as the CIA’s response to the detention investigation, which the CIA director, John O. Brennan, personally delivered to the Intelligence Committee last June.

In its investigation, the committee scrutinized a number of case studies to test claims made by Bush administration officials that the CIA interrogation methods yielded valuable information that disrupted terrorist plots and led US spies to other Al Qaeda operatives.

The report is said to challenge these claims, and provide new details about the questioning of prisoners in a number of CIA prisons in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Human rights advocates have pledged to exert pressure on Obama to ensure that the report is swiftly made public.

“I place responsibility in the hands of the president,” said Andrea J. Prasow, senior national security counsel for Human Rights Watch. “If the president wants it to happen, he could make it happen.”

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