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.