Daniel Jones: the Senate staffer spied on by the CIA
As consuming as the rear-guard defense of the torture report was, Feinstein, no longer in possession of a gavel, pivoted to legislating the lesson that motivated it. In June 2015, by a wide bipartisan margin of 78 to 21, Feinstein and John McCain successfully passed an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill prohibiting the CIA from engaging in interrogations more brutal than an army field manual authorized. Obama signed the bill, giving the force of law to his 2009 executive order ending torture.
Implementing all of the reforms needed to address the problems the report exposed is most important to me, Feinstein told the Guardian, and I am continually looking at ways to do that.
In December 2015, Jones left the Senate. Feinstein read a tribute to Jones into the record. He joined a
Washington consulting firm led by Tom Daschle, Reids predecessor as Senate Democratic leader, and started a firm, the Penn Quarter Group, to advise businesses and nonprofits on research and investigations.
It was obvious I needed to leave the committee, Jones said. While he said senators encouraged him to push back against torture in public, I needed a break. Its hard to describe how much of my life Jones trailed off.
I was gone from the world for a number of years. Its a bit of an adjustment to being a normal person.
Rockefeller, the former senator and intelligence committee chairman who hired Jones in late 2006, said: We were lucky to have him leading our investigations. He and others devoted so much of their lives to making sure this Senate study got done and was done right.
Dan and his team worked under considerable pressure for more than seven years to complete the full 6,700-page classified report on the CIA program, added Levin.
He and his colleagues always comported themselves in a professional manner, were diligent, and maintained the highest of ethical standards throughout this ordeal, despite all of the challenges they faced.
Jones has regrets about the way the declassified report turned out. Most prominently, Jones wishes he had gotten declassified the nearly 100-page table of contents for the full 6,700-page torture report, so readers could understand from the headings and subheadings just what the full contours of the torture was: It has an incident on a particular day of someones detention, and there might be 10 pages on it. Or there might be 50 pages on it. It just shows the level of detail and how these 500 pages is just scratching the surface.
Still, Jones considers the inquiry a success, one he attributes to the senators who took real political risks to back him and his team against the CIA.
For those who worry that Congress is only dysfunctional, this is exhibit A to the contrary, he said.
This was a serious and high-stakes battle between two branches of government. And the legislative branch, in my view, ultimately won. I think our founding fathers would be very proud of Senator Feinstein and the others who worked to get this investigation completed and released.
As the torture report receded into memory,
Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, and presented an enthusiasm for torture uninterested in grappling with any critique around its immorality or ineffectiveness. Trump has pledged to bring back waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse.
The anti-torture law Feinstein and McCain passed is one impediment to CIA torture. But before 9/11, US laws were unequivocally against torture as well, and the adoption of torture arose due to political will driving creative lawyering. Brennan in April this year said he would refuse an order to bring back waterboarding, and in July said he would have to be fired rather than implement it. But he indicated that his departure would not necessarily be an impediment to a return to torture.
If a president were to order the agency to carry out waterboarding or something else, itll be up to the director of CIA and others within CIA to decide whether or not that, that direction and order is something that they can carry out in good conscience, he
told the Brookings Institution.
The CIAs clash with the Senate committee has faded. So has Brennans summer 2014 contrition, delivered to Feinstein, about spying on Jones and the committee staff. Brennans ire at the torture report has not.
On 9 February 2016, Brennan had a
heated exchange with Wyden, who asked about the network search during an unrelated committee hearing. Brennan defended the agencys actions and again implied that Jones had himself hacked the CIA: Separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, Senator, goes both ways.
February 2016: CIA director John Brennan refuses to admit CIA unauthorized search of Senate files was improper
Speaking on 19 July to a friendly audience, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, Brennan
went further: When I look at the Senates report on the detention interrogation program, it makes my blood boil, because although theres a lot of things in there that were accurate, it really just focused on the shortcomings of the agency during that period in time.
He continued: If it was done in a more objective, nonpartisan and fair fashion, it would have put those shortcomings in better context. I fervently believe there was no agency more responsible for preventing a recurrence of 9/11 than the CIA. Unfortunately, that report I think misrepresented the totality of the worth of that program.
Brennan has told colleagues that he
wishes to remain CIA director under Hillary Clinton. In August, Morell published a New York Times op-ed excoriating Trump and endorsing Clinton, which intelligence observers understood as an audition to run Langley. For Jones, their apparent eagerness to lead the CIA is a reminder of a lack of accountability for torture and what he calls a failed coverup by CIA officials, aided by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Both Morell and Brennan are unfit to be CIA directors based off their response to the report, the way they responded to the Senate, how they view oversight. Under Brennan and Morell, the CIA is defending rectal rehydration as a well-acknowledged medical technique nothing to see here, he said.
Wyden, speaking to the Guardian, said: Im exceptionally troubled by Director Brennans extraordinary efforts to resist vigorous congressional oversight. I certainly do not have confidence in the director.
Obama has retained Brennan without a word of public criticism. He has kept his job despite the clash with his Senate overseers, just as CIA officials involved in the torture program and its misrepresentation to Congress, the Bush and Obama administrations, and the public still work at Langley.
People who played a significant role in this program, who are in the report, continue to play significant roles in sensitive programs at the agency, said Jones.
Carle, the former CIA officer and torture critic, disagrees that the agency needed to fire officials involved in torture to hold them accountable.
I do know a number of officers whose careers were certainly impacted, if not derailed, as the result of all this stuff, he said.
Speaking of Brennans reaction to the Senate report, Carle continued: I know John. This was his least impressive moment. I and colleagues have been somewhat mystified that such an intelligent, subtle and open-minded man, on this point, reacted like Jose Rodriguez, the retired CIA official and torture advocate whose destruction of videotaped interrogations began the Senate inquiry.
Udall, who had called for Brennans job in 2014, told the Guardian that he was not aware that there has been accountability for what Director Brennan calls CIAs bad mistakes. But, he said, the CIA as a whole ought not to bear the blame for torture.
We shouldnt ascribe the bad behavior of some to all the employees of the CIA or of the intelligence community, Udall said.
The CIA writ large wasnt responsible for developing, implementing and misrepresenting the truth about the CIAs detention and interrogation program. In fact, a small number of CIA officers were largely responsible. It is unfortunate that the refusal of the CIAs leadership to pursue accountability and tell the truth continues to tar the agency as a whole.
Obama is more instinctively skeptical of the intelligence agencies than his potential successors, but the president who banned torture helped CIA officials implicated in torture endure at the agency. Obamas deep relationship with Brennan and his early commitment not to look backward had profound consequences that will outlast his presidency.
They avoided all the necessary reforms that have to happen at the CIA, Jones said.
To me, its a huge lost opportunity. Heres an administration that came in and did all the right things within a few days, shutting down the program. But they didnt want the independent commission. They said the Senate intelligence committee was the right place to do this. And to me, we were just never given a fair airing. No one from the White House would be briefed by us. They were briefed by the CIA.
Delivering a speech on the war on terror on 6 September 2006. Photograph: MCT via Getty Images
Udall agreed: It is incumbent on the next administration to acknowledge these mistakes and institute the necessary reforms to restore the CIAs reputation for integrity and analytical rigor.
Carle is a rare former CIA official willing to praise the Senate torture report. It captures exactly exactly the culture, reality, conversations, pressures, silences, actions, doubts, arguments that I lived. Absolutely, completely accurate.
Asked if torture has left the CIA damaged, Carle said: The CIA exists to go to the limit of what is acceptable. Thats part of what defines our raison dtre. That said, I think we did lasting harm to ourselves as an institution and as a country.
The Senate investigation Feinstein led and Jones conducted into CIA torture is believed to be the largest in the legislative bodys 227-year history. In May 2016, the CIA inspector generals office destroyed its only copy of the classified torture report. The agency, Yahoo
reported, claims the destruction was accidental and that a copy of the report is held elsewhere at Langley. Referring to the ongoing transparency lawsuit, CIA spokesman Trapani said the agency will retain a copy pending the final result of the litigation.
Classified copies of the report, as well as the printed portions of the Panetta Review which Jones took in the fateful summer of 2013, remained in the Senate committees safe as of December 2015.
It is my firm believe that the report will stand the test of time, Feinstein told the Guardian, and I am hopeful future administrations take the opportunity to learn from its conclusions.