WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee's report Tuesday on the CIA's use of torture is unlikely to trigger major policy changes or even official introspection, but it ignited a new uncivil war of words between Republicans and Democrats in Congress that's likely to last through the 2016 election campaign.
Senators traded insults and charges as they learned of the findings. "It's absolutely irresponsible," Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said of the report.
Some Philadelphia-area Republicans expressed disappointment.
Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.) said in a statement: "Congress can and must conduct rigorous oversight of the CIA's efforts to fight terrorism, and any misrepresentations about these activities made by the intelligence community should be investigated. But the publication of this unclassified report increases risks to American personnel overseas, putting them in even greater danger. Congress can responsibly oversee covert programs in a manner that ensures they are effective but does not further imperil Americans in harm's way."
Rep. Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) had previously sent a letter to Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) asking her to withhold the report.
"Releasing this report at this time is not in America's best interests," Dent said. "This report is incendiary and its release will put American lives overseas at risk. Currently, U.S.-led forces are engaging ISIS forces. The release of the report could provide ISIS and other extremists groups an additional pretext to increase their gruesome practices that have included beheadings."
"This study ensures that the truth about the CIA's brutal torture program finally comes out," countered Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.).
There was little appetite for new legislation.
President Obama banned the controversial practices when he came into office in 2009, and torture itself has been illegal for decades under U.S. law and international treaties that the United States has signed.
Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.), who will become the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman next month, said he planned no further action.
"I just don't know what you would accomplish with hearings," he said. Asked whether he saw any kind of follow-up, Burr said, "No. Put this report down as a footnote in history."
Yet the report was too detailed and too disturbing to many lawmakers, who couldn't simply grumble and move on.
"I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence," said Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), who spent 51/2 years as a prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese. "I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it."
Most of all, McCain told colleagues, "I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies: our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights."
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest was circumspect. "We're talking about many classified programs . . . so even if there are some changes made, they may not be the kind of changes we can announce," he said.