The vital link between self-rule and openness has long been acknowledged and celebrated in the United States. But the shadow of the Sept. 11 terror attacks has eclipsed this shining principle.
The closing of the U.S. government in the name of fighting terrorism contributed to the disastrous invasion of Iraq, the long imprisonment without trial of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and the horrendous torture of terror suspects in violation of the nation’s laws and its moral values.
Now the misdeeds of torture are being compounded by an unwillingness to bring them to light. The extent of the holdout would be almost comic were the material at issue not so grim.
Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina’s Republican senior senator and head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is determined to prevent release of the committee’s full, 6,700-page report on the CIA’s secret prison program and its torture activities. The committee’s previous chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had released a summary of the report in December 2014 and distributed the entire report to executive branch agencies involved in preventing terrorism. She says the agencies should learn from the abuses “to ensure that they are not repeated.”
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But Burr, who assumed the chairmanship following the GOP’s takeover of the Senate after the 2014 elections, now wants all copies of the report returned unread. He says the report is “partisan,” which should be interpreted as “embarrassing” to the intelligence agencies involved. The ACLU has sued to have the entire report released. Until a judge decides, the distributed copies remain sealed and locked in department vaults.
Burr’s position isn’t surprising. Rather than the elected monitor of agencies that often push the bounds of U.S. law, he sees his role as protector of the intelligence agencies and himself as part of a team guarding the country against terrorists. Defending the spirit of democracy, presumably, is some other senator’s job.