Momentum builds to declassify CIA detention program

The cast of characters calling for the White House to publish a Senate investigation into the CIA's Bush-era detention and torture practices expanded on Tuesday.

Calling the CIA's detention program "an international conspiracy of crime," Ben Emmerson, the United Nations' special rapporteur for counterterrorism and human rights, called on the Obama administration to publish the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which reviewed more than six million pages of CIA and other records in its confidential investigation. "The special rapporteur calls on the United States to release the full Senate Select Committee report as soon as possible, subject to the specific redaction of such particulars as are considered by the Select committee itself to be strictly necessary to safeguard legitimate national security interests or the physical safety of persons identified," Emmerson said.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment regarding Emmerson's presentation. But Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he agrees with the U.N.: the investigation should be made public. "The government has an obligation to the American people to face its mistakes transparently, help the public understand the nature of those mistakes, and correct them," he told Foreign Policy. "It is time to make the record of this program public."

The report is of particular interest to human rights groups, as it reportedly examined the worst abuses of torture and detention over the last decade, and the extent to which it occurred. A recent independent investigation into the program by the Open Society Foundation found that more than 50 countries participated in the CIA's worldwide interrogation program.

The fact that Attorney General Eric Holder has ruled out any criminal prosecutions of U.S. officials who tortured detainees also appeared to irk Emmerson, who said torture was prohibited "under customary law and international treaties."

Importantly, Udall and others were not willing to use the declassification of the investigation as a poker chip in the confirmation of John Brennan for CIA director. This afternoon, the intelligence committee advanced his confirmation in a 12 to 3 vote. Beyond Udall, others on the Intelligence Committee were less outspoken about their preference to declassify the investigation. An aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the committee, referred FP to Feinstein's previous statements about disclosing the investigation, which emphasized seeking White House consultation. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the vice chair of the committee, declined to comment.

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Does Saudi Arabia still put people's heads on pikes?

For the time being at least, the Saudi Arabian jewel thieves slated for execution Tuesday appear to have dodged a bullet -- or multiple, for those who were sentenced to go before a firing squad. In the case of Sarhan al-Mashayeh, the lead defendant in the case, the news that the executions would be delayed by at least a week meant avoiding a three-day crucifixion.

Ironically, it may have been the grisly practice itself that bought the defendants their extra week, as the flurry of media attention no doubt played into the Royal Court's last-minute decision to stay the executions. After all, the entire story of the thieves' conviction -- which involved the alleged torture of minors -- is not one the Kingdom wants to see plastered on broadsheets all over the world. Topping it all off with a three-day crucifixion was only asking for a media drubbing.

So how exactly does Saudi Arabia typically carry out its crucifixions? Back in 2009, the Telegraph's Damian Thompson explained what fate awaited a similarly unlucky subject: "he will be beheaded first, and his head will be stuck on a pole separately from his crucified torso."

Sends a message, I guess, but not one that wins King Abdullah many points in Washington. Anyway, hasn't it been a bad enough news day for Saudi Arabia's royal family?  

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