Editorials

Sen. Burr is wrong to recall CIA torture report

It didn't take long for North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr to stir up his Democratic colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee he now chairs. He has sent the White House a letter, The New York Times reports, demanding that copies of an internal CIA report on torture be "returned immediately."

Burr and some other Republicans didn't like the report released under the previous Intelligence Committee chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. In it, the CIA's use of torture was detailed and documented, and it embarrassed the agency and, for that matter, the country.

Some Republicans, Burr included, seem to think the report was a politically motivated effort to harm the legacy of President George W. Bush, whose vice president, Dick Cheney, said of the techniques used by the CIA: "I'd do it again in a minute." Cheney has long contended that the methods produced results for the United States, a claim discredited by the CIA's own 2009 internal assessment known as the Panetta Review.

And Burr, who said before becoming chairman that he would not hold hearings on the report, called the Senate Intelligence Committee's 6.700-page report "a blatant attempt to smear the Bush administration."

Feinstein is appalled at Burr's action and believes the committee's report offers "the ability to learn lessons from this sad chapter in America's history." She also notes that the CIA was consulted before the report's release.

One who agrees with the report's release is Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam prisoner of war who suffered torture at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors. He said the CIA's torture methods "stained our national honor, did much harm, and little practical good."

With this petty action, given that the details of the report have been made public, Burr signals that his time in this important chairmanship will be stridently partisan. It's not a promising sign for a tenure that ought to be marked by constructive debate.

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