Obama Has Saved One Copy Of The Torture Report From Destruction, But What's Going To Happen To The Rest Of Them?
from the 'accidental'-incineration,-probably dept
Even if the White House won’t declassify the full CIA Torture Report, at least we know one copy will be locked up in President Obama’s archives for 12 years. That prevents Senator Burr and others from making the report disappear completely.
The White House copy isn’t the only copy of the report, but at least we know where that one is. Other agencies have copies. Or had them. But they haven’t read them. The CIA destroyed its copy of the report — the sort of “accident” that often befalls damning reports in the hands of the agency targeted by them.
There’s another copy sitting further up the hierarchy as well. Or is there? The Defense Department is supposed to have its own copy and as the department the CIA answers to, it should be doing what it can to ensure its copy doesn’t disappear.
The Defense Department, however, may or may not have one — depending on who you ask and when you ask it. Katherine Hawkins of Just Security notes that the DoD’s copy — if it even still exists — won’t be made a part of any public record anytime soon if it can help it.
Last week it emerged that the existence of the Defense Department’s copy is also in doubt. The chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo military commissions, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, repeatedly refused to answer direct questions from the military judge about whether the Department of Defense still had its copy of the report. The Defense Department had acknowledged receipt of the full report in a court declaration in January 2015, and the U.S. government told both a federal court and the military commission judge that it would be preserved.
That was early last year, long before anyone inside the government was asking an outgoing president to declassify the report. That was also long before the Defense Department was having to discuss the existence of the document in court, thanks to the trial of alleged 9/11 attack mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Mohammed’s attorney hinted that the document could very well vanish sometime after Inauguration Day and asked the presiding judge to push the DoD to preserve its copy as well.
Martins, however, refused to make any such promises, much less fully confirm the DoD’s copy was still intact.
Nonetheless, asked whether DoD had kept its word and retained its copy, Martins repeatedly evaded the question, and finally replied, “I’m not prepared to answer the question. I can determine if there’s a way to find that information.”
Whatever that means.
Martins may not want the document to become part of the court record. Or it could mean Martins truly has no idea whether the DoD’s copy is still intact. Either way, it’s clear the Defense Department would rather not acknowledge the document’s existence on the record. Fortunately, the judge has ordered the Defense Department to answer the question in writing within the next couple of days.
Hawkins points out that even if Obama doesn’t want to declassify the document, he could at least make sure every other government agency with a copy takes care to preserve theirs as well.
Obama could remedy the situation by writing a letter to executive agencies instructing them to open the report and begin reviewing it for lessons learned, and replace any copies that were destroyed. The administration could also withdraw its opposition to detainees’ pending motions seeking preservation of the report as a court record in both the military commissions and habeas corpus cases.
As it stands now, all that has been guaranteed is the existence of a single copy — the President’s. And that one’s just going to sit in his archives for the next dozen years, still out of reach of the general public.