Asa Hutchinson, the governor-elect, stood out in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s roundup of Arkansas reaction to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report detailing the use of torture by the CIA and its ineffectiveness.
Arkansas Republicans in Congress uniformly criticized the release of the information, preferring that U.S. citizens be kept in the dark about practices of their intelligence agency. Rep. Tom Cotton, a senator-elect, said the report was “full of lies.” The Arkansas Republicans believe release of such information is harmful to the country.
Hutchinson was a refreshing contrast and spoke from experience. He led a bipartisan task force that released a report in 2013 on detainee treatment. It said there was no evidence that torture produced valuable intelligence. It also dismissed Bush administration denials that torture had occurred.
Of the Senate report — the report that Arkansas Republicans challenged — Hutchinson told the Democrat-Gazette:
“I don’t see anything that really has not been disclosed previously,” he said. “This simply documents what we’ve really already known intuitively.”
Hutchinson’s group, which did more than 100 interviews, recommended that the Senate report be made public as long as it was safe to do so. His group left that decision to the president. He didn’t appear ready in the Democrat-Gazette interview to challenge the Obama administration decision to make the report public.
He said the United States needs to learn from its history and to be transparent.
“This report has a stamp of authority and breadth to it that a private-sector report cannot accomplish,” Hutchinson said. “This report had access to classified information; it had access to all the CIA documents so its much more authoritative. … But it is certainly consistent with [the task force report.]”
Hutchinson commented that the report showed that the CIA knew its methods produced unreliable information, but used it anyway.
The Arkansas Republicans in Congress mostly criticized the release of the report. But Cotton said it was “full of lies,” he challenged whether some of the techniques used amounted to torture and said it was a partisan maneuver. He said the release could cost American lives.
Hutchinson’s thoughtful response and his support for the idea that democracy is well-served by transparency about its intelligence gathering is a hopeful sign for the coming gubernatorial administration. He’s conservative to a fault and changes are coming that are sure to be unpopular at my end of the spectrum, but a reasonable conservative who doesn’t reflexively parrot the Fox News party line is a welcome addition to the debate.
Hutchinson seems to be in league with Sen. John McCain, pretty good company. McCain yesterday:
Torture, he said, “damaged our security interests as well as a reputation as a force for good in the world.”
“The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow,” he said. “The American people are entitled to it nonetheless. They must be able to make judgments about whether these policies and personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values.”