In the aftermath of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report focused on Bush-era techniques, the Obama administration’s own counterterrorism practices are coming under increased scrutiny.
Gruesome details of forced rectal feedings without medical necessity, waterboarding, and sleep deprivation were chronicled in the report’s executive summary, dredging up harsh practices employed during the George W. Bush administration. But on Capitol Hill, Republicans charge that the Central Intelligence Agency’s approach to counterterrorism has not grown more humane—it’s merely shifted.
“Obviously, we don’t interrogate prisoners anymore,” says Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who chaired the Intelligence Committee during the Bush administration. “Now all we do is kill them.”
President Obama’s targeted killing program has been one of the more confounding strategical decisions of his presidency. For liberal supporters who voted to elect a constitutional-law professor in 2008 and a candidate who had campaigned against harsh interrogation practices like waterboarding, it would have been hard to imagine that just years later they’d see a president who keeps a “kill list” of suspected terrorists.
As Republicans prepare to take leadership over the Senate Intelligence Committee, the panel’s oversight work will shift from spending considerable resources to ensure the release of the backwards-looking torture report to a committee that incoming Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said will deliver oversight in “real time.”