Re­port on CIA’s use of tor­ture is sealed un­til 2028

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY AN­DREA NOBLE

The 6,700-page Se­nate re­port on harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion tac­tics the CIA used on ter­ror­ism sus­pects af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks will not be re­leased to the pub­lic be­fore Pres­i­dent Obama leaves of­fice next month, ac­cord­ing to the White House’s top lawyer.

In­stead, the so-called “tor­ture re­port” will be pre­served and archived in of­fi­cial pres­i­den­tial records, mak­ing it el­i­gi­ble for open records re­quests and pos­si­ble declassification no sooner than 2028.

Re­spond­ing in a let­ter to law­mak­ers who had pushed for declassification of the re­port, White House Coun­sel Neil Eg­gle­ston wrote that Mr. Obama had directed that the full re­port be pre­served un­der the Pres­i­den­tial Records Act.

“The Pres­i­dent has in­formed the Archivist that ac­cess to clas­si­fied ma­te­rial, among other cat­e­gories of ma­te­rial, should be re­stricted for the full 12 years al­lowed un­der the act,” Mr. Eg­gle­ston wrote to Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein in a let­ter cir­cu­lated Mon­day. “At this time, we are not pur­su­ing declassification of the full study.”

A roughly 500-page sum­mary of the Se­nate re­port, which de­tails how the CIA de­tained and in­ter­ro­gated ter­ror­ism sus­pects un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, was re­leased pub­licly in 2014. The re­port ticked off some of the harsh­est treat­ment for 119 de­tainees held at “black site” lo­ca­tions over­seas — in­clud­ing wa­ter­board­ing, death threats and rec­tal force-feed­ings — but it con­cluded that the CIA re­peat­edly had mis­led its over­seers about the ef­fec­tive­ness of the pro­gram on ob­tain­ing in­tel­li­gence from de­tainees.

Ms. Fe­in­stein, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee chair who led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, has been among the law­mak­ers seek­ing as­sur­ances be­fore Mr. Obama leaves of­fice that the full re­port would be pre­served and even­tu­ally de­clas­si­fied.

“There are those who would like to see this re­port de­stroyed, but in the two years since its re­lease, none of the facts in the 450-page sum­mary has been re­futed,” Ms. Fe­in­stein said Mon­day in a state­ment. “It’s my very strong be­lief that one day this re­port should be de­clas­si­fied. The pres­i­dent has re­fused to do so at this time, but I’m pleased the re­port will go into his ar­chives as part of his pres­i­den­tial records, will not be sub­ject to de­struc­tion and will one day be avail­able for declassification.”

Wa­ter­board­ing, which in­volves pour­ing wa­ter over a cloth cov­er­ing the nose and mouth of a de­tainee to cre­ate the sen­sa­tion of drown­ing, was banned by Mr. Obama in 2009.

But the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of Don­ald Trump has raised ques­tions about whether the con­tro­ver­sial tech­nique could make a come­back. Be­fore win­ning the elec­tion, Mr. Trump said he sup­ports re­in­stat­ing wa­ter­board­ing and “much worse” meth­ods of tor­ture — though in more re­cent in­ter­views he ap­pears to have soft­ened that stance as a re­sult of con­ver­sa­tions with his nom­i­nee for sec­re­tary of de­fense, re­tired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis.

Sen. Ron Wy­den, who also has called for the re­port to be de­clas­si­fied, said Mr. Obama’s de­ci­sion on the re­port falls short of the trans­parency the Amer­i­can pub­lic de­serves, and he pledged to pur­sue the re­lease of the re­port through other means.

“When the pres­i­dent-elect has promised to bring back tor­ture, it is also more crit­i­cal than ever that the study be made avail­able to cleared per­son­nel through­out the fed­eral gov­ern­ment who are re­spon­si­ble for au­tho­riz­ing and im­ple­ment­ing our coun­try’s de­ten­tion and in­ter­ro­ga­tion poli­cies,” the Ore­gon Demo­crat said.

There is also an un­re­solved law­suit chal­leng­ing the se­crecy of the re­port. The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union in Novem­ber ap­pealed a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act law­suit over the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the re­port to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lower courts pre­vi­ously dis­missed the law­suit on the grounds that the re­port was a con­gres­sional record and there­fore not sub­ject to open records re­quests.

Hina Shamsi, di­rec­tor of the ACLU Na­tional Se­cu­rity Project, said the pres­i­dent could have directed agen­cies in re­ceipt of the re­port to de­clare it an of­fi­cial agency record — thereby mak­ing it sub­ject to open records re­quests.

Asked why the ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to wait 12 years to de­clas­sify the full re­port, White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest said Mon­day that “a sub­stan­tial por­tion of the re­port has al­ready been de­clas­si­fied.”

“I think there is am­ple in­for­ma­tion in­cluded in that re­port on this topic that has al­ready been de­clas­si­fied,” Mr. Earnest said, re­fer­ring to the sum­mary. “We’ve had an op­por­tu­nity to wage this de­bate in pub­lic on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions.”

He said the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity will have to re­view the re­port be­fore declassification, a process that would likely take a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time, but that, ul­ti­mately, the re­port would serve an ed­u­ca­tional pur­pose.

“The hope is that there will be an op­por­tu­nity for the Amer­i­can pub­lic to con­sider the find­ings of the re­port and learn some lessons about what kind of steps we want to take as a coun­try to pro­tect our­selves,” Mr. Earnest said.

Fe­in­stein

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