Plan to col­lect all copies of tor­ture re­port crit­i­cized

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - By David S. Cloud david.cloud@la­times.com

WASHINGTON — The CIA and other in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have re­turned to the Se­nate copies of a con­tro­ver­sial 2014 clas­si­fied re­port on the CIA’s use of wa­ter­board­ing and other tor­ture tech­niques, rais­ing new con­cerns about whether de­tails about the in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram will ever be made pub­lic.

Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.), chair­man of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said Fri­day he was seek­ing to re­trieve all copies of the scathing 6,700-page clas­si­fied re­port. The copies were pro­vided to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter Democrats on the Se­nate panel com­pleted a six-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the CIA in­ter­ro­ga­tion and de­ten­tion pro­gram, which ran from 2002 to 2006.

De­fend­ers of the Se­nate in­ves­ti­ga­tion long have wor­ried that Repub­li­cans who dis­puted the highly crit­i­cal find­ings would try to round up and shred the few ex­ist­ing copies once Pres­i­dent Obama left of­fice.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein (D-Calif.), who led the com­mit­tee when the re­port was com­pleted, de­nounced Burr’s ef­fort to re­cover the re­port, say­ing she feared he was seek­ing to pre­vent the re­port from ever be­ing de­clas­si­fied and re­leased to the pub­lic.

“No se­na­tor — chair­man or not — has the author­ity to erase his­tory. I be­lieve that is the in­tent of the chair­man in this case,” Fe­in­stein said in a state­ment.

“The re­port is an im­por­tant tool to help ed­u­cate our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies about a dark chap­ter of our na­tion’s his­tory,” she added. “With­out copies of it, the lessons we’ve learned will be forgotten.”

So far, of­fi­cials said, the CIA and the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence had re­turned their copies to the Se­nate com­mit­tee.

But other copies are still locked away at the FBI, State Depart­ment, Jus­tice Depart­ment, the Pen­tagon and the U.S. Ar­chives, which re­ceived its copy as part of Obama’s pa­pers. Two copies have been given to fed­eral judges in con­nec­tion with law­suits by de­tainees at the U.S. mil­i­tary prison at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

Burr said he acted af­ter the Supreme Court last month de­clined to in­ter­vene in a law­suit brought by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union seek­ing to have the re­port made pub­lic.

A fed­eral district court had dis­missed the case in 2015, find­ing that the full tor­ture re­port is a con­gres­sional record and there­fore not sub­ject to the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, a rul­ing up­held by a fed­eral ap­peals court in May 2016.

In a state­ment, Burr said that he had di­rected his staff to re­trieve copies “that re­main with the Ex­ec­u­tive Branch agen­cies” and that the com­mit­tee then would “en­act the nec­es­sary mea­sures to pro­tect the sen­si­tive sources and methods con­tained within the re­port.”

It ap­pears un­likely Burr will re­cover all copies of the re­port soon, if ever.

The Jus­tice and De­fense de­part­ments are un­der court or­der to pre­serve copies in con­nec­tion with law­suits brought by de­tainees.

Obama, who con­demned the tech­niques as tor­ture, signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in 2009 re­quir­ing the CIA to use only in­ter­ro­ga­tion methods listed in the U.S. Army Field Man­ual “un­less the At­tor­ney Gen­eral with ap­pro­pri­ate con­sul­ta­tion pro­vides fur­ther guid­ance.”

Last De­cem­ber, Obama or­dered his copy of the re­port to be archived in his pres­i­den­tial pa­pers to en­sure it is not de­stroyed.

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