The State Department has endorsed the broad conclusions of a harshly critical Senate report on the CIA's interrogation and detention practices after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the US, a report that accuses the agency of brutally treating terror suspects and misleading Congress, according to a White House document. "This report tells a story of which no American is proud," says the four-page document, which contains the State Department's preliminary proposed talking points in response to the classified Senate report, a summary of which is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
"But it is also part of another story of which we can be proud," adds the document, which was circulating this week among White House officials and which the White House accidentally emailed to an Associated Press reporter. "America's democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the talking points document a "particularly sensitive piece of information." And the State Department said the talking points were the work of one person, should not have been sent to the WhiteHouse and don't represent the views of the department.
It's not clear who wrote the document or how influential it will be in tailoring the Obama administration's ultimate response to an investigation that has been the subject of bitter disputes. It is common practice for the White House to solicit talking points from key agencies involved in responding to a major news event, which the release of the Senate report will be. The Senate report concludes that CIA's techniques on al-Qaida detainees captured after the 2001 attacks were far more brutal than previously understood. The tactics failed to produce life-saving intelligence, the report asserts, and the CIA misled Congress and the Justice Department about the interrogation programme.
Current and former CIA officials hotly dispute those findings, as do some Senate Republicans. The fight over the report has poisoned the relationship between the CIA and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee and left the White House in a delicate position.
President Barack Obama has branded some CIA techniques torture and ordered them stopped, but he also relies heavily on the spy agency, which still employs hundreds of people who were involved in some way in the interrogation programme. The report does not draw the legal conclusion that the CIA's actions constituted torture, though it makes clear that in some cases they amounted to torture by a common definition, two people who have read the report said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the still-classified document publicly by name. The Senate report, the State Department proposes to say, "leaves no doubt that the methods used to extract information from some terrorist suspects caused profound pain, suffering and humiliation. It also leaves no doubt that the harm caused by the use of these techniques outweighed any potential benefit."
Those methods included slapping, humiliation, exposure to cold, sleep deprivation and the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.