Torture report says little on Pat Roberts’ role

? A report released by Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists says little about the role Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas played when he was chairman of the oversight committee.

Roberts served as chair of the intelligence panel from 2003 until 2009, a period that covered much of the time when the CIA employed a program that it referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

The 525-page report was released Wednesday. It harshly criticizes the CIA over the program, saying the torture techniques employed were much harsher than the agency had described. It also concluded there was no evidence the use of torture produced useful information, contrary to the agency’s claims.

Roberts’ name is mentioned only 16 times in the report, mostly in footnotes as the recipient of various memos from the CIA.

But Roberts does figure prominently in the report’s discussion of one highly disputed memo regarding a Sept. 4, 2003, briefing in which Stanley Moskowitz of the agency’s Office of Congressional Affairs said Roberts approved of destroying videotape recordings of suspects being interrogated.

Moskowitz’s “Memo for the Record” asserts that Roberts “winced” at a graphic description of the techniques used on one terror suspect. It also says that when he was told of the agency’s plan to destroy videotape recordings of interrogation sessions, “Senator Roberts listened carefully and gave his assent.”

That memo was declassified and made public in 2010, and in a New York Times report on the memo Roberts said through a spokesman that he never approved of the destruction of those videotapes.

The memo also says Roberts specifically declined to personally inspect any of the interrogation sites. “Quickly the Senator interjected that he saw no reason for the Committee to pursue such a request and could think of ‘ten reasons right off why it is a terrible idea’ for the Committee to do any such thing,” the memo states.

But the report released Wednesday concluded there was no independent evidence to corroborate that the 2003 briefing ever took place.

“Neither the CIA nor the Committee has a contemporaneous report on the content of the briefing or any confirmation that the briefing occurred,” the report states.

It also notes in other portions that the CIA specifically denied Roberts’ request for the location of one detention site and to inspect another interrogation site at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Journal-World tried to interview Roberts about the upcoming report during his recent re-election campaign. His office declined the request but issued statements via email saying Roberts was proud of his military service and of his chairmanship of the committee.

Many people had expected the report would also examine the Intelligence Committee’s own oversight activities during that period, with particular focus on Roberts.

Among those was former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, who wrote in a Sept. 28 op-ed piece on the Huffington Post that the report would be highly critical of the Kansas senator.

“He protected those elements of the CIA following the Bush-Cheney orders on torture, as the soon-to-be published Senate torture report under Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) will make clear,” Wilson wrote. “It was Roberts who let it all happen. It was Roberts who aided and abetted the assault on the reliability of the intelligence community. It was Roberts who failed his duty, besmirched the honor of the Senate and undermined the nation’s values.”

Chris Anders, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who had sued under the Freedom of Information Act for release of the report, told the Journal-World in October that he expected the report to criticize the committee’s own handling of its oversight duties.

“The CIA is an important agency with a lot of power, and whether one agrees or disagrees with how it’s used that power, it should be accountable to other branches of government,” Anders said. “It should be part of the constitutional system of checks and balances.”