White House Tells Feinstein CIA Torture Report Will Be 'Preserved' But Not Declassified
from the because-of-course-not dept
Over the last few weeks, we’ve noted that Senator Dianne Feinstein has pushed for the CIA Torture Report that she originally commissioned be declassified (beyond the 500 page, heavily redacted, executive summary that was declassified). And then we wrote about two former Senators asking for President Obama to make sure that he preserve the report as a federal record. This is important. The full report, approaching 7,000 pages and costing $40 million to prepare, apparently details all sorts of wrongdoing by the CIA in torturing people in the Middle East. It’s a comprehensive look into not just the horrific program by the CIA, but its failure to produce anything useful and the details of how the CIA lied about it. And here’s the problem: Feinstein’s colleague on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the current chair, Senator Richard Burr, wants the report destroyed.
Burr is claiming that the report is a Congressional Record and not a federal record, and thus has asked for all copies to be returned, where he can make sure they are destroyed and never to be read by anyone. This dispute has resulted in people in the Executive Branch being told not to read the report and not to enter it as a federal record, thus keeping it away from being subject to FOIA requests, and while everyone figures out what to do about Burr’s request.
In response to Feinstein’s more comprehensive request for declassification, top White House lawyer Neil Eggleston has written a letter saying two things: first that the document will be preserved under the Presidential Records Act, even if the copies at various agencies are returned to the Senate. This is good. It means that even if Burr gets the document back, he can’t destroy every single copy, and also that it’s likely that someday there will be a release of a declassified version.
I write to notify you that the full Study will be preserved under the Presidential Records Act (PRA). The determination that the Study will be preserved under the PRA has no bearing on copies of the Study currently stored at various agencies.
Then there’s the bad news: that day won’t be any day soon. Eggleston also informs Feinstein that there is no effort underway to declassify the report, meaning that it’s simply not going to happen under this President at all. He does note that under the PRA, the information should be classified for twelve years:
Consistent with the authority afforded to him by the PRA, the President has informed the Archivist that access to classified material, among other categories of information, should be restricted for the full twelve years allowed under the Act. At this time, we are not pursuing declassification of the full Study.
This is a ridiculously weak cop-out. The study deserves to be declassified — especially as the incoming President elect has said that he plans to reintroduce elements of the torture program and even push for it to go further than it did in the past. Having the public recognize the problems of the program — not to mention other government officials, seems like it would be fairly important.
Of course, given that Trump and his team have suddenly picked a fight with the CIA — including accusing the CIA of lying, perhaps he’ll actually be more interested in exposing the CIA’s lies detailed in the report. In this age of topsy-turvy news where everything has been flipped upside down, stranger things have happened…