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Our Opinion: Release Senate torture report

The  United States has done a good job counter-attacking Al-Qaeda, disrupting its cash flow and communications and assassinating its top leadership.

Now here’s a surprise: The torture and mistreatment of suspects and detainees didn’t help, and apparently hurt the cause.

That’s not the party line from the CIA, but it is what the Senate  intelligence committee found out, and documented in an exhaustive 6,000-plus page study of CIA interrogation and detention after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The report demonstrates that torture was not effective or important in fighting terrorism and stopping terrorist attacks. It also shows that the CIA misled Congress about the program’s effectiveness and what was actually being done to detainees.

At least, that’s what it reportedly says. The report has been adopted by the intelligence committee, but the committee has to vote before it can be declassified and released. Unless it’s declassified and released, the public will never know for sure.

General David Irvine, Ambassador James R. Jones, Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and Judge William S. Sessions are among those pushing for the report to be made public.

“We were members of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, an 11 member bipartisan panel that spent two years examining the treatment of suspected terrorists under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations,” the four wrote in a news release.

“The Task Force was made up of former high-ranking officials with distinguished careers in the judiciary, Congress, the diplomatic service, law enforcement, the military, and other parts of the executive branch, as well as recognized experts in law, medicine and ethics.

“We concluded unanimously that the United States engaged in torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment — in many instances and across several theaters — and senior government officials, both civilian and military, bear ultimate responsibility for those abuses.”

They also made a series of recommendations designed to prevent a return to torture and abuse in the face of any new terrorist attack.

An informed public is at the heart of many of that Task Force’s recommendations. Americans, when they know the truth, usually demand that their government do the right thing:  Declassifying the report is critical to ensuring that safeguards against torture are thorough and long-lasting.

And that begins with the declassification and release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Immediately on taking office, President Obama rescinded the CIA’s authority to use “enhanced interrogation techniques.” But a new president could easily overturn it with the stroke of a pen.

Why not? Public support for torture has only increased in the last five years. It would be the popular thing to do.

The way torture is promoted in TV shows like “24,” Hollywood movies like “Zero Dark Thirty,” and some CIA memoirs would shock the founding fathers, who outlawed “cruel and unusual punishment” in the Eighth Amendment.

We say: Declassify the report, make it public, and let people decide for themselves how badly the CIA crossed the line.