After ten years in the House of Representatives and six as a U.S. Senator, Mark Udall would prefer to go out known as a champion of individual liberty and the environment, rather than the faltering "Senator Uterus" who one-noted his re-election campaign and badly underestimated the Republican who unseated him, Cory Gardner. And pressure is mounting, in the waning hours before Gardner takes the oath of office tomorrow, for Udall to make a bold move to secure that legacy.
Ever since Gardner's upset victory, speculation has been rampant that Udall will release some version of the Senate Intelligence Committee's 6,700-page study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program, a massive, hush-hush, four-year investigation of the George W. Bush administration's use of extreme measures -- okay, torture -- in its global war on terror.
A declassified executive summary of the report, totaling 528 pages, was released three weeks ago. But Udall has been particularly vocal about the need for more transparency and more disclosure, fueling expectations that he will unload more details before leaving office, since he doesn't have to worry any more about such an indiscretion costing him his seat on the Intelligence Committee.
"The entire report ought to be released," he told Scott Raab in an Esquire interview last month. "When this report is declassified, people will abhor what they read. They're gonna be disgusted. They're gonna be appalled. They're gonna be shocked at what we did. But it will lay a foundation whereby we don't do this in the future."
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Udall seems more steamed than some of his colleagues over the CIA's obfuscations about its interrogation policies, as well as the agency's hacking of the committee's own computers as the report was being compiled. He's being egged on by former Senator Mike Gravel, an Alaska Democrat who, way back in the Nixon era, used his constitutionally protected position to disclose volumes of classified Pentagon Papers leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, helping to scuttle the efforts by the Dark Lord to prevent their publication. In a recent op/ed run in the Denver Post, Gravel and co-author Bruce Fein urge Udall to take the same step to release an already redacted version of the torture report.
But will he? Udall has threatened to do just that, but there have also been reports that the redacted version may be released within the next few weeks, anyway -- in which case the premature dissemination, if it does occur, might be seen as a bit of last-minute grandstanding.
Udall's decision won't, in any event, put to rest the questions about the report -- particularly questions about what's still redacted and suppressed. But getting more on the record concerning a dark chapter in our nation's recent history is a start to understanding that history. And if Udall is intent on delivering on his convictions and laying a foundation for the future, putting more of the story before the public is one way of separating genuine outrage from bluster. Have a tip? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.