The United States has beefed up precautions to protect Americans and U.S. facilities abroad for possibly violent responses after the release Tuesday of a long-awaited Senate report on interrogation techniques used by the CIA.
Just hours before the report was issued, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said U.S. military forces were on “high alert everywhere in the world.”
“We don’t have any specific information or intelligence to show that there is anything out there that would lead us to do anything beyond high alert right now,” Hagel told reporters in Baghdad. “But, yes, we were concerned about the content of that report being declassified.”
The report details the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program.
“There are some indications that . . . the release of the report could lead to a greater risk that is posed to U.S. facilities and individuals all around the world,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Monday. “So the administration has taken the prudent steps to ensure that the proper security precautions are in place at U.S. facilities around the globe.”
President Obama still “strongly supports the release of the declassified summary” of the report, Earnest said, adding that it could be an opportunity to “be clear about what American values are and be clear about the fact that the administration believes . . . that something like this should never happen again.”
Earnest said the administration and intelligence officials had been working with the Senate Intelligence Committee to release as much information as possible.
The document, a nearly 500-page summary of a 6,200-page report compiled by the committee’s Democrats, has been the subject of sparring between the panel and the CIA. Those familiar with its contents have described it as critical of detainee treatment in secret CIA prisons in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It is also said to conclude that the use of harsh interrogation methods was not effective.
Pressed about whether Obama believes that the methods used against alleged terrorists and other foes produced useful, actionable information, Earnest said that “even if they did,” the president thinks “that it wasn’t worth it, and it did not enhance the national security of the United States of America.”
Obama has said that some of the interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, amounted to torture.
U.S. officials are most worried about a violent backlash in Africa and the Middle East, or in countries where anti-American sentiments often run strong, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The troops on heightened states of alert are mostly Marines, a Pentagon official said. The units involved include a crisis-response unit that has Marines in Sigonella, Italy, and Moron, Spain; a second crisis-response unit with troops in Kuwait and Iraq; and fleet anti-terrorism security teams, 50-man units of Marines that are typically called upon to reinforce U.S. embassies.
About 4,000 Marines and sailors with the three-ship Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, out of San Diego, also are currently in the Middle East. The USS Makin Island, the main ship in the group, was in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, Navy officials said on the ship’s Facebook page Monday. On board are Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, of Camp Pendleton, Calif. They also have the ability to reinforce embassies if required.
Missy Ryan in Baghdad contributed to this report.