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Lead Investigator For CIA 'Torture Report' Explains Why It Was Necessary To Hijack A Copy Of The 'Panetta Review'

from the keeping-the-CIA-(slightly-less-dis)honest dept

The Guardian has published a long report detailing Senate staffer Daniel Jones' experience with the CIA while acting as the Senate Committee's chief investigator during the compilation of the "Torture Report." While much has already been written about the CIA's actions during this time, the Guardian's multi-part piece gives the public an insider's look at the effort the agency went through to disrupt the preparation of the report.

The process started off on the wrong foot. It was the New York Times, not the agency itself, that initiated the Senate's examination of the CIA's counterterrorism efforts.

In November 2005, a senior CIA official named Jose Rodriguez destroyed 92 videotapes depicting the brutal 2002 interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abdel Rahim Nashiri. Rodriguez’s tapes destruction remained a secret to his congressional overseers for two years, until a 6 December 2007 New York Times article revealed it; they barely even knew the CIA taped interrogations at all.

Daniel Jones spent the next five years digging through any documentation he could pry from the CIA's hands and slowly came to the conclusion the agency had lied to everyone -- including two consecutive presidents -- about its interrogation practices.

One document contained crucial information that proved Jones' conclusion: the Panetta Review. But the CIA didn't want to hand it over. The Senate's agreement with the CIA meant that the agency controlled access to the documents in its possession -- documents it provided extremely limited access to. Jones worked in a single room set up by the CIA for examination of documents and it only dropped files into the shared drive Jones could access if it felt like it. It also removed files periodically without warning or explanation.

In March 2010 Jones and his colleagues started noticing that they had difficulty accessing documents they knew they already had. Simple search terms weren’t retrieving certain records anymore.

“We noticed they were gone right away,” Jones said.

It would have been easy to disappear documents, even in substantial amounts. The agency had provided millions of pages. The only way it could have happened was for the agency to have removed the information from a computer network the CIA set up for the Senate that Jones did not know the agency could access

When asked about this, the CIA first blamed the tech team it had hired to set up the system used by the CIA to provide access to Senate staffers. Then it blamed the White House. Finally, it took a look at itself in a closed, opaque investigation and managed to come to the conclusion that the CIA itself was to blame for the missing documents.

This was still early on in the process and was on top of other pre-existing headaches. The DOJ's decision to open its own investigation of torture allegations should have been good news, but instead, it just created more problems for Jones and the Senate Subcommittee.

Typically, when the justice department and congressional inquiries coincide, the two will communicate in order to deconflict their tasks and their access. In the case of the dual torture investigations, it should have been easy: Durham’s team accessed CIA documents in the exact same building that Jones’s team did.

But every effort Jones made to talk with Durham failed. “Even later, he refused to meet with us,” Jones said.

[...]

The lack of communication had serious consequences. Without Durham specifying who at CIA he did and did not need to interview, Jones could interview no one, as the CIA would not make available for congressional interview people potentially subject to criminal penalty. Jones could not even get Durham to confirm which agency officials prosecutors had no interest in interviewing.

The 6,700-page report was finished by the end of 2012. By mid-2013, the CIA was already disputing the content and the conclusions reached by the Senate investigation while still stonewalling on declassification. Jones, who had uncovered a wealth of lies delivered to the Bush administration, was somewhat surprised to see the current head of the CIA (John Brennan) continuing the CIA tradition with President Obama, delivering briefings to him that contradicted the contents of the Senate report, but agreed with the CIA's internal investigation: the so-called "Panetta Review."

Having observed this, Jones decided to break the rules the CIA had set down for Senate staffers.

Inside the small room in Virginia the CIA had set up for the Senate investigators, Jones reached for his canvas messenger bag. He slipped crucial printed-out passages of what he called the Panetta Review into the bag and secured its lock. Sometime after 1am, Jones walked out, carrying his bag as he always did, and neglecting to tell the agency security personnel what it contained. After years of working together, no one asked him to open the bag.

Jones didn't leak the document. Nor did he just hand it over to the Senate Subcommittee. Instead, he placed it in the Subcommittee's safe to ensure the CIA didn't control the only copies of the Panetta Review. It was a move that needed to be made. The CIA had zero interest in releasing the documents and, shortly after the Torture Report's release, it somehow managed to "accidentally" destroy the agency's only copy of it.

Jones' removal of the review led to the CIA and Senate demanding criminal investigations of the other party and the eventual punishment of one person involved in the investigation: staffer Alissa Strazak, the other lead investigator during the compilation of the report. She found her promotion to General Counsel of the US Army blocked by senators critical of the report's findings. The DOJ never filed any charges. The FBI won't even read the report. And the CIA has emerged pretty much unscathed and possibly looking forward to having a new president to lie to in 2017. (Although if it's Trump, it may not have to lie quite as frequently…)


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  • icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 4:02am

    I still struggle to see how it can be called oversight when the CIA can decide what to release. Yes - the CIA lies to everyone, including presidents - how is that allowed to continue?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 4:12am

      Re:

      My thoughts. If you can't not lie then you should be extinct. It's like those 'too big to fail' cases or those huge environmental disasters. The companies, agencies behind should be closed if necessary, consequences be damned. They should have thought of the consequences before allowing the abuses in the first place.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2016 @ 7:13am

      Re:

      Oversight - an unintentional failure to notice or do something.
      "he said his failure to pay for the tickets was an oversight"

      Now form a committee. They can't all have intentionally missed it therefore it must be an oversight of the committee. Eureka! Lets form oversight committees!

      Piss poor car analogy time: Would it be a good idea to have someone over-steering for you while you are driving? I'm thinking you will spin out of control.

      Overlooked doesn't mean looked over.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 1:31pm

      Re:

      Very simple rule of thumb: If the person or group you're supposedly 'overseeing' is able to tell you 'No' then you're not providing oversight, you're just there to make it look like you are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 5:13am

    its lying scumsuckers all the way down...

    to top it off, they claim the DESTRUCTION OF EVIDENCE, as far as the interrogation tapes was no big deal, 'cause they had notes on it and shit...
    gee, you and i can get away w shit like that, right ???
    right ???
    scumbag traitor who destroyed the tapes 'on his own inititive' got fired, right ???
    right ???
    we live in a nation ruled by laws, not psychopaths, right ???
    right ? ? ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 14 Sep 2016 @ 5:26am

    Wait, you think only Trump?

    No, probably the only candidates that would challenge that are Bernie or Johnson. Remember that while a Senator, Hillary did her own "investigation" of the Iraq war before she voted for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 7:26am

      Re: Wait, you think only Trump?

      Well, that's one claim.

      Hillary voted for military action in Iraq. Which up to that point meant the occasional air strike and "Tomahawk therapy", NOT a full invasion and decade-long military occupation.

      And she voted for it based on Bush's promise that it was leverage for a push for a diplomatic solution (making Saddam Hussein readmit U.N. weapons inspectors.) Bush broke that promise and didn't allow time for the diplomatic approach to play out.

      And of course the vote was based on the evidence for Saddam's active WMD program - evidence which turned out to be a lie by the Bush White House.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    priority handler dog man, 14 Sep 2016 @ 5:28am

    clintons evil empire

    If trump gets in he will read everything, thats what they are scared of. Trump will do something,what , who knows but definately something. Clinton will do nothing and may even help in covering up violations of us law. Do not vote clinton no matter what. if you do be warned, world war 3 is now. if you vote trump, he will at least disarm the terrorists without selling more war equipment to the world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 6:36am

      "If Trump gets in..."

      Trump won't read anything, according to his own rhetoric. He doesn't care, and will persecute with glee anyone or any group he personally doesn't like.

      Really, he wants to be dictator, not president.

      We can expect the ongoing CIA Extrajudicial Detention and Interrogation program to expand under Trump like a runaway cancer.

      More secret interpretations of law. More redefinitions of what is or isn't torture. More categories persons in which due process is ignored, where detention and torture are acceptable.

      Trump believes open torture is acceptable and should be legal. By his own words.

      And Trump may well not even compute in his wee little head that anything is, or ever was, wrong with this. He certainly won't grasp the visceral reality of what torture is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2016 @ 8:25am

        Re: "If Trump gets in..."

        Most everything you said may apply to Trump though we don't have any record to go on yet. It absolutely applies to Hillary who has been part of the current administration and has an abysmal record. She did not mind lying about the YouTube video being the cause of Benghazi, does not mind lying about her private email, lying about only deleting personal email, lying about turning over all email. In fact she is the queen of lies.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 9:14am

          Re: Re: "If Trump gets in..."

          > Most everything you said may apply to Trump though we don't have any record to go on yet.

          Actually there's quite a lot in his record to go on. His comments on killing reporters and promoting violence against protesters who disagree with him for example. His love of Putin's "leadership." His promises to effectively end religious freedom.

          > She did not mind lying about the YouTube video being the cause of Benghazi

          That's a Republican fantasy. Based on her - not denying that that it was terrorism - but refusing to jump to conclusions on the day of the attack. Given that there were protests just hours earlier in Cairo that WERE based on the video, that was reasonable.

          > does not mind lying about her private email

          Agreed. On the other hand, that puts her in the same crowd as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. And Bush II, Cheney, Rove and anyone else connected to the White House email scandal. And 2016 candidates Jeb!, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, who each have their own email scandals. Etc. Etc.

          The real question is why was *everyone* avoiding government email servers.

          > In fact she is the queen of lies.

          I'd never vouch for her honesty. But I wouldn't consider her any worse than anyone in the 2016 or 2012 or 2008 Republican primaries.

          Understand, I am NOT pro-Hillary. I'm just anti-denial.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 14 Sep 2016 @ 6:57am

      Re: clintons evil empire

      Drumpf complained that the RNC was rigged, but came out on top. But what has he said or done about the 'rigged' RNC?

      You can expect the same for other issues.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 6:12am

    It still amazes me that torture is a CONTROVERSY.

    The US tortured some folks, and officials and agencies condone the torture conducted by the US as acceptable and in the color of law. This conduct makes us one of the bad guys. Our city on the hill doesn't shine anymore.

    We have officials and candidates who endorse torture and the extrajudicial process by which we administer it, and we have constituancies that disregard or find this a selling point. How is this not a great point of shame for the people and the elected representatives of the United States.

    I am ashamed of my nation. I resent that it will take longer than my lifetime to live this down. But it continues to stun me that some of us continue to think torture was a pretty good idea, even though we still have to speak of it in softening terms, even though we can't speak openly of who did what.

    What do we tell our presidents when they were left uninformed? What do we tell our children whom we've promised a nation of laws?

    At what grade-level of American History or Government do we teach our children about torture, and how we justify that it makes us...safer or something?

    I am too stunned to think.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 8:05am

      Re: It still amazes me that torture is a CONTROVERSY.

      That's easy you brainwash the children with rhetoric about how only bad people get tortured. if you end up being tortured then you must be a bad person.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 12:44pm

        "then you must be a bad person"

        We keep coming back to that, that there are bad people, and we can identify them as a demographic and isolate / exile / evacuate them without due process.

        We've seen time and time and time again how that turns out.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 1:09pm

          Re: "then you must be a bad person"

          Yes but this time it'll work out, because The Ultimate Country That Can Do No Wrong, The Grand United States of America couldn't possibly do something that was wrong, or make a mistake, so just because that mindset has led to human rights violations on massive scales, and atrocities being comitted like they were going out of style it doesn't meant that that will happen to the Holy US of A.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    axel Sohn, 14 Sep 2016 @ 7:04am

    Could you put me on your daily email list?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 8:02am

    The sad part is this will only cause Americans caught and detained by foreign powers to be tortured. Since now the world knows that the US government has no problem ignoring the geneva convention so why should they.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 8:24am

      Re:

      The US kidnapped more than 100 people from EU soil alone in the years after 9/11.

      As always turn-about is fair play. If another country bypasses the extradition system and kidnaps an American off an American street, the US won't have much justification to complain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 1:13pm

        "We can do it because we're always right, if you do it it's a crime!"

        You vastly underestimate the gross hypocrisy that permeates the USG.

        The WH likely would stay silent, assuming they couldn't spin it, as objecting would open them up to a barrage of egg-on-face, but you can be sure that politicians and the news would be screaming their heads off about the terrible crime that has occurred, and how it's totally different than what the USG did!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 1:28pm

      Re:

      Quite. Even ignoring all the moral and ethical issues torturing prisoners is a terrible idea because it means the other side will now feel free to do the same to your people.

      Not only that but it will increase injuries and death in combat for the military, because why would anyone ever surrender if they thought they'd just be tortured and possibly killed after doing so? The point of surrendering is that you don't want to die, but if the alternative is torture and possible death anyway? Better by far to die in combat, at least that's relatively quick, and with both sides thinking that the fatality rate on both sides is likely to be much higher than it could have been.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Justme, 14 Sep 2016 @ 6:59pm

    Oversight. . .

    Law makers appear to forgot the concept of checks and balances, and oversight is not an effective alternative because oversight ends up just being one more partisan pissing match.

    I can't say exactly how that would apply in this case but when they can simple refuse to disclose information that they are legally required to provide and pay no penalty, clearly things are not balanced. And oversight is a complete sham.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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