Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions

Every few days, we receive a Google alert with an article containing the breathless possibility that maybe, just maybe, outgoing U.S. Sen. Mark Udall will release a report on CIA interrogation tactics before he leaves office.  The report is classified and fellow liberal U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein has promised at least the executive summary will come to light.  Feinstein claims in the National Journal that the Senate Intelligence Committee is just debating details at this point, but has promised its release by January 3 at noon, when Republicans officially take over the U.S. Senate.  Why does Udall’s name keep coming up in this conversation?  Did the CIA need a seating chart?


But, there is a way that Udall could make this report public and that’s by reading from the Senate floor into the Congressional Record.  Sen. Mike Gravel did this very thing in the 1970s to expose the Pentagon Papers, which uncovered that the federal government had lied to the public about many aspects of the Vietnam War.

We suggested Udall could use this maneuver back in March of this year when Udall, a self-proclaimed although still unproven privacy watchdog, said that his hands were tied when it came to exposing the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs as soon as he realized this could have been a plank of his re-election platform spying on Americans is wrong.  After his resounding defeat, Udall himself told The Denver Post that he would consider dragging this option out of the attic for the CIA report.

And here is where we call B.S.  What is the risk/reward for going out on a limb to make this report public?  Udall has already lost his election.  Back in March, perhaps Udall could have made this a cornerstone of his campaign – that he’s anti-torture.  Neither he nor Democrats have anything to gain from releasing this report in full.  This isn’t a partisan issue.  Several high-ranking Republicans have supported the report’s release and National Journal reports that the Obama administration is even trying to block the release of the report’s summary.  And, then, there is the question about whether the release of such a report would threaten the safety of U.S. troops.  Yet, even if the will is there, the way is treacherous.  From National Journal:

“For Udall to do that, he would have to overcome political and procedural obstacles, including Senate standing rules that allow for a senator to call for a closed session at any time—which could block Udall’s efforts. The political ramifications for Udall, however, are complicated. Moving forward alone to release the torture report on the Senate floor would make Udall a hero to civil liberties and human rights advocates, but it could also undermine his relationship with the Democratic establishment.”

To suggest that Udall would take such a big political gamble when he previously refused to do so – even to save his own career – seems far fetched.