Kerry call to Feinstein exposed Obama administration torture rift

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Story highlights

  • Secretary of State John Kerry's call to Sen. Dianne Feinstein exposed an Obama administration rift on torture report
  • The CIA and State Department sought to withhold the report, while the DOJ and WH have pushed for publishing
  • The report was made public Tuesday morning
Secretary of State John Kerry's call to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein last Friday surfaced administration tensions over the torture report detailing Bush-era CIA interrogation tactics.
Behind the scenes, the CIA and State Department had been fighting to not publish the report, while the Justice Department and the White House had been pushing for the opposite in hopes of getting it done and over with.
While all Obama administration officials agree the intelligence assessment that the report's publication could arouse protests on the Arab streets, some officials said further delay doesn't do anything to prevent that from happening.
Additionally, the government was fighting a losing battle on withholding the report within the court system. Judges have taken a dim view of the need of the CIA to completely block the release of documents on this program, and the administration's determination was that the agency is better off with a controlled release of documents, which began Tuesday morning with the disclosure of only the 480 page executive summary, plus a shorter Republican counter-assessment and the CIA's own assessment.
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According to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, Kerry -- who served alongside Feinstein in the Senate for decades -- was simply reiterating concerns about the safety of Americans following the report's release, not backing away from the administration's support for doing so.
"He wanted to have a discussion with a former colleague ... about foreign and policy implications of the release of the report, ongoing efforts -- everything from our ongoing efforts related to ISIL, the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world," Psaki said Monday during her daily briefing.
"He was simply raising the fact that these are issues that are ongoing right now, and certainly, he wanted to have a discussion and make sure that they were factored into the timing," she added.
A Democratic Senate aide, speaking on background, told CNN none of the concerns Kerry conveyed in the phone call to Feinstein were new or unknown.
"Certainly if Secretary Kerry was citing instability and chaos across the world and in the Middle East, there's no argument on that, but that's not going to change any time soon," the aide said. "The horrible acts against Americans, whether committed by ISIL or AQAP or whoever, will continue. And while they may cite the release of the report, they're already doing everything they can to hurt Americans."
The aide pointed out the report has been gone over with a fine-toothed comb by the Obama administration so as to ensure "the report does not compromise our intelligence sources and methods or compromise our national security."
"We've been preparing our foreign partners for any possible response," the aide said. "And there have been efforts going on for multiple days to prepare stations and embassies and bases for any response, just as there is any time the United States takes an action that might provoke a response."
According to an administration official, 93% of the report is unredacted. "There's going to be nothing lost in this narrative," the official added.
When asked about the phone call Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to offer up how much the White House knew ahead of time.
"The President and the secretary share the view that the release of the report is important for that purpose," he said during his daily briefing. "I will allow Secretary Kerry to explain exactly why he made the phone call."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney pushed back on the report Monday night. It portrays the CIA as misleading the Bush White House and Justice Department, among others.
"What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it," he said in a telephone interview with The New York Times. "I think that's all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program."