Former high-ranking CIA officials have collaborated on a book that disputes the findings of a scathing Senate report released last year, extending a seemingly eternal debate over the agency’s use of brutal interrogation measures.
The book, which includes essays by former CIA directors George J. Tenet, Michael V. Hayden and Porter J. Goss, depicts the Senate investigation as a partisan attack that maligned agency employees and dismissed the value of intelligence gained from captured al-Qaeda suspects.
Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who presided over the interrogation program as head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, wrote the most combative chapter, accusing President Obama of damaging the agency’s ability to trust the White House.
“By calling [agency employees] torturers and hounding them in the courts, President Obama has broken the covenant that exists between the government and the CIA,” Rodriguez wrote. “I worry about what this means for the safety of our nation.”
But while lashing out against critics, most of the essays avoid any mention of waterboarding, rectal feeding or other tactics that were used on CIA detainees, and do not explicitly defend the effectiveness of methods that Obama and human rights groups label as torture.
The book, titled “Rebuttal,” is to be released Wednesday by the U.S. Naval Institute. It includes material that was previously made public, including the CIA’s response to the report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as the views of Republicans on that panel who disagreed with the final report.
Bill Harlow, a former CIA spokesman who served as editor for the compilation, said the project was conceived after the Senate report was released in book form. The Senate document has been depicted as “the definitive word” on the interrogation program, Harlow said in an interview. “We wanted to go on the record saying it definitely wasn’t.”
Even before its publication, “Rebuttal” has drawn criticism on Capitol Hill and among human rights groups, underscoring the lingering intensity of the competing views of a program that was dismantled in 2009.
“This book contains nothing new,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a written statement. As then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Feinstein presided over the panel’s six-year probe of the interrogation program.
“The new book doesn’t lay a glove on the factual accuracy of the Committee’s report,” Feinstein said. “These interrogation techniques were brutal and did not produce information that was not already obtained in more traditional and acceptable ways.”
Other contributors to the book include former deputy CIA directors Michael J. Morell and John E. McLaughlin, and former acting general counsel John A. Rizzo. The book indicates that proceeds will be donated to the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation.
Many describe the Senate report as distorted and failing to consider the roles that others — including at the White House and Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration — played in encouraging and approving the interrogation program.
In an introductory essay, Tenet acknowledges “failures of leadership and management that left a stain on our record,” a concession that is in contrast to the defiant tone he often struck when promoting his 2007 memoir. Even so, he describes the post-9/11 mind-set in apocalyptic terms, saying that agency officials had come to “believe that the world was in great danger.”
Julie Tate contributed to this report.