The 'Torture Report': a Soldier's Response

I am a retired Marine reserve Colonel. I have been in harm’s way.

The Senate intelligence committee released a report that is likely to be incendiary at best. On the cover page the words “TOP SECRET – NOFORN” were stricken.

The words “TOP SECRET – NOFORN” means top secret – no foreign dissemination. It is a classification that is used to indicate that such disclosures would be harmful to the interests of the United States, our uniformed servicemen and women and our citizens. That, in and of itself, should be sufficient to convince the U. S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to tread lightly and to not release the report.

The issue is not the need for the report but whether or not the report should, in fact, be released to the public. For those of us who have served, Congressional oversight is critical but publicly releasing such information is dangerous and irresponsible.

When I left active duty, I was “read-out” of the programs for which I had access. That means that I would be prohibited from disclosing such information for many years after release from duty. The reason for that “read-out” is to prevent processes and methods we use from being released to our enemy. Such processes and methods, however, were not kept from the Congressional oversight committees nor should they have been. 

The release of such information puts lives in danger and, candidly, Congress does not have the right to do that to my fellow servicemen and women. Congresses responsibility is oversight not endangering.

For these senators to release such a report in the middle of a conflict is appalling. If one of my Marines had done that they would be facing court-martial and well they should. 

Our nation is still at war!  During a war, it is imperative that the conflict be prosecuted to the fullest extent until victory is assured.

In 2003, I wrote:

“The war we face today is a different kind of war than any we have known before but it is one we must all be prepared to fight. Our weapons must include not only our Nation’s arsenals, but also require your active participation in the discussions our society has about the present conflict as well as those to come. 

You must remember that our enemy is a determined one and they are prepared to fight for an extremely long time. Time is our enemy, not theirs. Be patient!

The military aspects of this war are important but so are the economic ones. As such, our nation must focus on providing economic stimulus during the war. Our enemy has decided to fight us not just militarily, but economically as well.  

…This war is aimed at Americans, not just the at government, but the very fabric of our society

I wrote this in 2003 to warn everyone that our nation was in for a long struggle. That struggle had just begun and has many more years to go before the conflict is subdued. Our elected officials are playing into the hands of the enemy when they released the CIA report. To fail to understand that the enemy takes encouragement from our elected leaders public disclosures is horribly naïve and potentially fatal to thousands of America’s finest.

Remaining steadfast and determined has not been an enduring quality or trait of our culture lately. The terrorist organizations know that and we are playing right into their hands.   

To successfully prosecute this war we must build the relationships that human intelligence capabilities require so that more September 11th type attacks will be avoided. This rebuilding of the intelligence capability is a decades-long process and requires our legislative and executive branches to be consistent. Publishing the Senate report at this time is counterproductive to that end and will extend this conflict for decades.

For all of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines around the world, I want to personally offer you my support and prayers. You are the victims of the irresponsible conduct of the Senate Select Committee members of both parties who voted for this release.

We, in the military, take an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

At the same time, our elected leaders have a responsibility to protect you. With the release of this report, our country has let you down -- particularly Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

My only apprehension is that many young men and women in harm’s way will be on the receiving end of the report and our elected leaders of either party have the responsibility to be objective meaning to be intellectually honest and fair.

The release of this report is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This issue affects my fellow servicemen and women who may be harmed by the release and to the nation who will not be engaged in conflict for decades to come.

A dear friend of mine mentioned to me that we have to be an open and free society. She is absolutely correct. But this report and ones similar to it should be released to the public after the conflict and not during the conflict. 

During my tour as a Marine I had sad honor to do a casualty call and notify a family, including three young children, of the death of their parent -- a fellow Marine. There was no greater honor than to do this but to have to make a casualty call because a politician released a report that incited in enemy to attack people is morally reprehensible to me.

To my fellow Service members, Semper Fidelis.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies.  He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations.  He can be reached at and twitter at @fryan1951.