Senators Slam White House For CIA Torture Report Redactions That Make It 'Incomprehensible'
from the just-release-it dept
The fight over the redactions of the CIA’s torture report continue. Last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein noted that she and her staff were somewhat taken aback by the amount of redacted information when they received back the black ink-drenched copy of the executive summary to the $40 million, 6,300 page “devastating” report on the CIA’s torture program prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee. In response, James Clapper shot back that the redactions were “minimal” and over 85% of the document was free from black ink (it’s not clear if he was counting the margins as well…).
Of course, as Marcy Wheeler has pointed out, this is just about the executive summary of the report — which was specifically written to be published. In other words, the really “secret” stuff is in the rest of the report, but the 408 page exec summary was written with public disclosure in mind — meaning that the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers certainly wrote it with the expectation that it would need few, if any, redactions. So the fact that large chunks of it were redacted immediately set off some alarms.
On Tuesday, multiple Senators on the Intelligence Committee spoke out angrily about the redactions. It kicked off with Feinstein who noted that the review her staff went through of the redactions shows that the censors are trying to hide information that should be public:
?After further review of the redacted version of the executive summary, I have concluded the redactions eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report?s findings and conclusions. Until these redactions are addressed to the committee?s satisfaction, the report will not be made public.
?I am sending a letter today to the president laying out a series of changes to the redactions that we believe are necessary prior to public release. The White House and the intelligence community have committed to working through these changes in good faith. This process will take some time, and the report will not be released until I am satisfied that all redactions are appropriate.
?The bottom line is that the United States must never again make the mistakes documented in this report. I believe the best way to accomplish that is to make public our thorough documentary history of the CIA?s program. That is why I believe taking our time and getting it right is so important, and I will not rush this process.?
Senator Carl Levin then came out with a much more strongly worded condemnation of the redactions suggesting that they were clearly designed to hide embarrassing information, which is not a legitimate reason for redactions:
?The redactions that CIA has proposed to the Intelligence Committee?s report on CIA interrogations are totally unacceptable. Classification should be used to protect sources and methods or the disclosure of information which could compromise national security, not to avoid disclosure of improper acts or embarrassing information. But in reviewing the CIA-proposed redactions, I saw multiple instances where CIA proposes to redact information that has already been publicly disclosed in the Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse that was reviewed by the administration and authorized for release in 2009. The White House needs to take hold of this process and ensure that all information that should be declassified is declassified.?
Senator Mark Udall issued a statement in which he notes that the “strategic” redactions are used to distort the nature of what’s in the report:
“While Director Clapper may be technically correct that the document has been 85 percent declassified, it is also true that strategically placed redactions can make a narrative incomprehensible and can certainly make it more difficult to understand the basis for the findings and conclusions reached in the report. I agree wholeheartedly that redactions are necessary to protect intelligence sources and methods, but the White House must work closely with this committee to reach this goal in a way that makes it possible for the public to understand what happened.
“I am committed to working with Chairman Feinstein to declassify the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study to the fullest extent possible, correct the record on the CIA’s brutal and ineffective detention and interrogation program, and ensure the CIA learns from its past mistakes. And in light of the importance of the work the Senate Intelligence Committee has undertaken, I believe that the chairman should take all necessary time to ensure that the redactions to the executive summary are appropriate ? not merely made to cover up acts that could embarrass the agency.
“The CIA should not face its past with a redaction pen, and the White House must not allow it to do so.”
All three of those Senators are well aware of what’s in the report, and it appears they recognize that the black ink was being used not to protect national security or “sources and methods” but rather to hide or distort the facts of the CIA’s torture program.