The covert conflict saw the CIA spy on Congress. Intelligence officials quietly argued against the report's release, on the basis that it would endanger American lives. The White House eventually stepped in, mediating negotiations about what to include — and what to black out.
It's being made public now.
A congressional committee that studied the use of torture during the Bush era is poised Tuesday to release a 480-page executive summary of its findings, a heavily scrutinized and edited synopsis of a broader 6,000-page document compiled by a Senate panel.
The White House said it's been bracing for this moment. It confirmed reports Monday that U.S. military and diplomatic personnel around the world have been placed on a heightened state of alert.
A spokesman for U.S. President Barack Obama referred to warnings from the intelligence community that the document's release could inflame passions and lead to violence against Americans.
"That's why this administration has been working for months to plan for this day," Josh Earnest said during Monday's White House briefing.
"There are some indications that the release of the report could lead to a greater risk that is posed to U.S. facilities and individuals all around the world, so the administration has taken the prudent steps to ensure that the proper security precautions are in place at U.S. facilities around the globe."
But he added, emphatically: the Obama administration supports this document's release.
The buildup has seemed, at times, like something out of a spy novel.
The CIA admitted to snooping on Senate staffers' computers while they prepared the report. At first, the agency denied accusations of domestic espionage against the elected body. Eventually, it confessed and apologized, ascribing its actions to the belief that staffers were consulting unauthorized documents.
Still, that failed to mollify members of Congress. Several called for the CIA director's resignation for what they described as a violation of the country's basic democratic order.
With elected lawmakers and the intelligence community at odds, the White House waded in. The president sent his top aide to help work out a deal for the document's release. Barack Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, made multiple trips last summer to Capitol Hill to negotiate with lawmakers about what to redact.
Bush-era veterans are arguing against the release of this document at all. The former head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, said it could do three types of damage:
— He warned the CIA workforce would feel like it's been tried and convicted in absentia, because the Senate committee based its work on documents, not personal interviews;
— It could be used by America's enemies as a promotional tool to inspire new attacks;
— It will abandon allies abroad, he said, referring to countries that helped the U.S. with its extraordinary-rendition program.
Hayden said that he carefully examined the use of so-called enhanced-interrogation techniques when he took over the CIA job. And he said he made an objective decision that it would be wrong to cancel them.
"I was a blank sheet when I went into the CIA in late May 2006," he told CBS over the weekend.
"This was the elephant in the room. What were we going to do with this program? This had not been my program up to that point — I was free to stop it cold. And I spent the summer of 2006 looking at the facts... In conscience, I couldn't take it off the table."
But he said that interrogation techniques were softened considerably, both before and after he arrived. He said three people were waterboarded in total — the last one in March 2003.
He apparently urged his Democratic successor to keep up the tough interrogation methods. In his newly released memoirs, Leon Panetta writes that Hayden "blew a gasket" when his successor referred to past practices as torture, and pleaded to continue extra-judicial interrogations when the two met to discuss the transition following Obama's 2008 election win.
There's one Canadian with very different memories of those interrogation techniques.
Maher Arar referred to the human toll Monday. Arar, who was picked up at an airport in 2002 and sent to be tortured in Syria, tweeted: "Heated discussion about upcoming torture report (carry) no mention that actual human beings have suffered lasting physical/psychological scars."
The report into the CIA comes six years after the Senate released a study into the military — and offered a glimpse into how its interrogation techniques were developed after 9-11.
It described how two instructors from the Navy went to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in 2002 to teach 24 guards there about methods used by Chinese communists during the Korean War, against American POWs.
The Chinese method came to be rebranded as Biderman's Principles, after the academic who researched the Korean War practice. He boiled it down to an eight-step program: physical isolation, followed by sensory deprivation, exhaustion and discomfort, threats, occasional rewards, powerlessness, physical degradation, and the enforcement of arbitrary rules.
According to the 2008 Senate report, the Navy trainers handed out a chart on those coercive techniques to the personnel at Guantanamo Bay.