CIA Inspector General Claims It Accidentally Deleted CIA Torture Report After Being Asked To Retain It

from the keystone-cops dept

The saga of the CIA torture report continues to get stranger and stranger. As we noted, last week, the appeals court shot down a FOIA lawsuit from the ACLU to get the full report released. If you remember, only the heavily redacted ~500 page executive summary of the report had been released, with another ~6,500 pages or so still locked away. And we do mean locked away. The Justice Department has basically told the entire executive branch not to open the report, and Senate Intelligence Committee boss Richard Burr has been demanding the report be sent back to the Senate so it can be destroyed. Senator Feinstein had actually distributed copies fairly widely throughout the administration, with the goal being that the full report would get read and, you know, the US government wouldn’t torture people again.

Part of the reason why the DOJ instructed everyone in the executive branch not to read it was to play a game with the whole FOIA process. Only documents held by the executive branch are subject to FOIA requests. Things in Congress are exempt. So Burr has been making sure that everyone believes the report is “a Congressional record” and the DOJ is arguing that by not opening the report, the executive branch doesn’t run the risk of accidentally making the document subject to FOIA requests. But, as part of that, the DOJ also told everyone in the executive branch not to destroy their copies either — asking it to “preserve the status quo” during the course of the FOIA lawsuit.

According to a detailed report at Yahoo, the CIA’s Inspector General’s Office then destroyed its copy of the report, but insists it was all an accident, and they’d like another copy… to lock up and not read:

[L]ast August, a chagrined Christopher R. Sharpley, the CIA?s acting inspector general, alerted the Senate intelligence panel that his office?s copy of the report had vanished. According to sources familiar with Sharpley?s account, he explained it this way: When it received its disk, the inspector general?s office uploaded the contents onto its internal classified computer system and destroyed the disk in what Sharpley described as ?the normal course of business.? Meanwhile someone in the IG office interpreted the Justice Department?s instructions not to open the file to mean it should be deleted from the server ? so that both the original and the copy were gone.

At some point, it is not clear when, after being informed by CIA general counsel Caroline Krass that the Justice Department wanted all copies of the document preserved, officials in the inspector general?s office undertook a search to find its copy of the report. They discovered, ?S***, we don?t have one,? said one of the sources briefed on Sharpley?s account.

Sharpley was apologetic about the destruction and promised to ask CIA director Brennan for another copy. But as of last week, he seems not to have received it; after Yahoo News began asking about the matter, he called intelligence committee staffers to ask if he could get a new copy from them.

Feinstein is apparently none too pleased about all of this and has just sent a letter to CIA director John Brennan, asking him to give the Inspector General’s office a copy:

As you may be aware. the office of the CIA Inspector General has misplaced and/or accidentally destroyed its electronic copy and disk of the Senate Select Committee on lntelligence’s full 6,700-page classified Study of the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program. I write to request that as Director of the CIA, you provide a new copy of the Study to the office of the CIA IG immediately.

Your prompt response will allay my concern that this was more than an “accident.” The CIA IG should have a copy of the full Study because the report includes extensive information directly related to the ongoing oversight of the CIA.

Furthermore, on February 5, 2015, as part of ongoing FOIA litigation, the Department of Justice declared to a federal judge that “it can assure the Court that it will preserve the status quo regarding the Full Report absent either leave of court or resolution of this litigation in the government’s favor.” Therefore, providing the CIA IG with a copy of the full report immediately will also ensure that DOJ lawyers can inform federal judges that the status quo was adhered to and has been restored.

The Yahoo report also notes that the CIA and the Justice Department apparently never bothered to tell the judge that this copy had been destroyed, despite promising that it wouldn’t be months earlier. The DOJ apparently told Yahoo reporter Michael Isiskoff that since the Inspector General’s Office is a part of the CIA, and the CIA itself still had a copy, it felt that the status quo had been retained.

And, yes, while the Inspector General’s office is a part of the CIA, it’s the part that’s supposed to be overseeing the rest of the organization to make sure it doesn’t violate the law in this manner. As the qrticle notes:

?It?s breathtaking that this could have happened, especially in the inspector general?s office ? they?re the ones that are supposed to be providing accountability within the agency itself,? said Douglas Cox, a City University of New York School of Law professor who specializes in tracking the preservation of federal records. ?It makes you wonder what was going on over there??

It certainly does make you wonder…

Meanwhile, there’s also some dark irony in the fact that the only reason this report exists in the first place was as a response to the Senate’s discovery that the CIA illegally destroyed videotapes detailing the CIA’s torture program.

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Comments on “CIA Inspector General Claims It Accidentally Deleted CIA Torture Report After Being Asked To Retain It”

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33 Comments
psiuuuuu (profile) says:

Are you sure want to PERMANENTLY delete this file?

Deep under the CIA Isengard HQ:

PC: This action cannot be undone.
CIA FOIA Officer: “Exxxxcellent” *clicks OK*
PC: Your hugely incriminating and embarrassing file has been deleted. Would you like to delete anything else?
CIA FOIA Officer: *clicky clack* ‘delete TortureForFunAndProfit.backup’
PC: By your command

/fin

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If it’s as widely disseminated as is claimed by Feinstein, then there’s no way wikileaks does not already have a copy. But Feinstein, being the lying fat piece of shit that she is, hasn’t given anything to anybody. She cares not for humanity or anything else besides her own fat rotten godless ass.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Gee if only there were some people charged with providing oversight who would punish those who disregard the law and violate their duties…

We should form such a group and elect people who will put the publics interests above optics & lobbyists.

Has anyone asked the NSA for the copy they innocently swept up in their daily business?

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There IS a department charged with overseeing congress. That would be the ‘intelligence community’. (Sort of like the non-specific word “intellectual property” and similarly slimy, in that it’s several different things.)

The problem is that Feinstein and others don’t seem to be fully committed to doing as they are told.

On one hand Feinstein will support back doors and making all cryptography insecure for all users in the US, when told to do so.

But on the other hand, she is being insubordinate and can’t seem to let the torture report thing go when the ‘intelligence community’ wants it to go away.

Anonymous Coward says:

As much as it is to pile on the evidence of their malice, the situation described here sounds quite plausible that this particular instance wasn’t intentional or any one person’s fault. Also, what would this even accomplish if there were malice in this act? It’s not like it’s the only copy. It’s certainly kinda weird, and there’s certainly a lot of shady shenanigans going on around the report (like those orders for no one to look at it), but I don’t think this is one of them.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sure, it doesn’t sound plausible that there was only one copy of the document, at this stage of affairs.

But that only one copy was sent to the IOG, and that that copy was destroyed in the sequence of events described? That does sound entirely plausible to me – and if the deletion of the server copy (in mistaken understanding of the received instructions) happened before a backup would have been taken, it likewise seems plausible that no backup would be available.

Anyone else who had received a copy would still have it, and the OIG should be able to get a new copy from there (as indeed has been requested) – but the OIG itself would not have its copy.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: what a joke of an agency.

Probably sensible, depending on who you’re applying to. I would never hire someone who has the CIA (or any spy agency) on their resume. They present too large of a security risk.

On the other hand, you should be customizing your resume for whatever company you’re apply for a job with anyway — so you’d probably want to list it in some versions and omit it in others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

the thing is, assume for a second, it wasn’t accidently-on-purpose ‘lost’/’deleted’; is it possible either a no-bad-nik intent on extortion (or a card to play in power-elite deep politics), OR a goodnik nicked it to get it to a wikileaks type entity ? ? ?
SINCE they are NOT howling about someone stole it, AND don’t appear to be desperate to track down someone who did, i can only think they did accidently-on-purpose ‘lose’/’destroy’ it, and are playing games…
the question isn’t IF they are lying about the situation, the question is HOW MUCH they are lying…
being an alphabet spook means never having to say you are sorry…

Personanongrata says:

Fat Finger at CIA

Oopsy daisy, guess the super sleuths at CIA never back up their data.

Senator Feinstein had actually distributed copies fairly widely throughout the administration, with the goal being that the full report would get read and, you know, the US government wouldn’t torture people again.

This idea is as defective as Senator Feinstein if the goal is/was to act as a deterrent and prevent agents of the US government from torturing people again reading a report (full or not) is not the solution.

A appropriate deterrent in this instance –torturing people– would be serious jail time for all involved.

Feinstein is apparently none too pleased about all of this and has just sent a letter to CIA director John Brennan, asking him to give the Inspector General’s office a copy:

That will learn CIA. A sternly worded letter authored by senator blowhard (enter your own senators name) and CIA will cease and desist all unlawful operations.

Peter says:

Doesn't anybody in government backup their data

Accidents happen. Files get deleted. But shouldn’t there be a series of backups (hourly, daily, weekly monthly etc) of the server? What happens if the internal classified computer system blows up? Will all the other important documents be lost? It’s stunning how incompetent the managers of these departments are.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

I'm sure it went something like this...

Curly: “Hey, Larry, this server is full of files.”

Larry: “Well, what did you do that for? Moe is gonna have a fit.”

Curly: “I didn’t do it.”

Larry: “Well you’d better get rid of them, fast!”

Curly: “Okay, they’re gone.”

Moe: “Hey, I forgot to tell you guys. The files on that server are very important. Be careful of it.”

Larry: “What files?”

Curly: “Yeah, what files?”

Moe: “There’s no files?”

Moe looks at server, “You knuckleheads!”

Curly: “Woo! Woo! Woo!”

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