WASHINGTON – A new book by a former CIA leader seeks to "justify the CIA's failings" with inaccurate criticisms of the Senate intelligence committee's investigation into the agency's use of torture, the key senator behind the investigation said Monday.
In "The Great War of Our Time," due to be published Tuesday, former deputy CIA director Michael Morell defends the CIA's use of harsh interrogations and denounces the committee's 6,770-page report as "deeply flawed," and a disservice to the nation. Morell says waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other brutal techniques used on al-Qaida detainees by the CIA produced reams of crucially important intelligence, disputing the Senate report's conclusion that they didn't.
Feinstein, whose staff sifted through millions of CIA documents describing the interrogation program for six years while she chaired the intelligence committee, issued a statement Monday evening challenging Morell, who is a consultant for CBS News and a senior counselor at Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm that includes close aides to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell's new book repeats the same false charges made by other former CIA personnel when the Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA torture report was made public in December 2014," Feinstein said.
"This is not surprising, considering the book's co-author helped coordinate the CIA's unofficial response to the committee's study and co-wrote two other books with ex-CIA officials — George Tenet and Jose Rodriguez — that also attempted to justify the CIA's failings," she said.
Feinstein was referring to Bill Harlow, a former CIA spokesman who co-authored the memoirs of former CIA director Tenet, who helped create the torture program, and Rodriguez, who supervised it for a time. Harlow also helped coordinate an effort by former officials last year to rebut the torture report.
Feinstein said that although Morell is one of the few people with access to the classified version of the report, he told her he never read it, instead relying on the 518-page public summary and analysis by his staff.
In his book, Morell calls the Senate report deeply flawed, writing at one point, "most of the errors are ones that even a smart high school student would not make." He says it cherry-picked documents to reach a foregone conclusion, and says it read like a "prosecutor's brief."
But he cites only a handful of what he deems specific errors, none of which would appear to refute the central conclusions of the report: that the program was badly managed; that it was more brutal than understood by anyone outside the interrogation rooms; and that it failed to produce unique, lifesaving, otherwise unobtainable intelligence, the standard upon which it was justified.
Feinstein disputed that the study's findings were pre-ordained, and she noted that the Senate report "reached many of the same conclusions as the CIA's own internal study." Morell did not address the internal study, which is known as the Panetta Review because it was prepared for then-CIA Director Leon Panetta. It remains classified, and the CIA says it was merely an internal examination of what the Senate committee might conclude.
Harlow, in a telephone interview, said Morell "stands behind every word in the book."