We had mentioned in the past, that once Senator Richard Burr took over the Senate Intelligence Committee, it seemed likely that the CIA torture report, prepared by the Committee's staffers, would be buried
. That was before the redacted version of the executive summary was released, and it was written to explain why an agreement needed to be reached to release the report before the new Congress took over. However, what we didn't expect was that Senator Burr, upon taking office, would then take the rather unprecedented step of trying to bury the report anyway
But that's exactly what he's doing.
Specifically, he has freaked out and demanded that the White House return every copy of the full 6,600 page report
, saying that Senator Feinstein never should have delivered that full report to anyone in the administration:
Burr, upon taking charge in January, wrote to the executive branch and the federal agencies in receipt of the document, and asked that it be returned to the committee, as he did not feel it was a valid disclosure.
“It gets pretty technical,” Burr said, confirming he sent the letter. The full document, he explained, had been voted complete in the 112th Congress, and the release of the executive summary was voted on by the 113th Congress.
But what wasn’t ever agreed upon, said Burr, was the disclosure of the full report to several arms of the federal government, which prompted his letter demanding all copies be returned.
And, that's not all he's asking for. He's also demanding back the so-called "Panetta Review," which was the internal review, done by the CIA of the torture program, with findings that largely mirrored the Senate Intelligence Committee's report. The Panetta Review had been done, on the orders of then director Leon Panetta, and the CIA insists it was only meant for internal use at the CIA. At some point, however, according to the Intelligence Committee staffers, the CIA gave a draft of that document over to the those staffers. That resulted in then Senator Mark Udall asking the CIA for the final review -- leading the CIA to freak out
that a Senator knew of the existence of the Panetta Review in the first place.
That, of course, resulted in the CIA then spying on
the Senate staffers' computers to find out how they got the document and
the CIA ridiculously claiming that the staffers had violated criminal laws in removing the document from the network and storing it in a safe place. Udall, before leaving Congress, argued that the Panetta Review should be released
, but Burr has (not surprisingly) demanded the document back.
Once again, this raises some serious questions about what Senator Burr thinks his role is. Is it oversight
of the CIA -- or is he the CIA's protector? Because the demands for both of these reports to be "returned" so that he can more or less destroy them, certainly suggests the latter, rather than the former.
And, as ridiculous as it may sound to demand the return of these reports, it's more than just a gesture of solidarity with the CIA. The ACLU is currently suing the CIA
over its refusal to release the Panetta Review under a FOIA request and also the federal government for refusing to release the full CIA torture report. Having that information in other parts of the government make it more likely that a court could order it to be turned over. But Burr seems to be focused on making sure that it's only held by "friendly" parties who might destroy this important historical document, detailing the CIA's abuses. As the ACLU noted in a statement:
“Senator Burr is supposed to be overseeing the CIA, not covering up its crimes. The full Senate torture report was given to Executive Branch agencies to be widely used to make sure that the federal government learns its lesson and never uses torture again. Senator Burr’s attempt to recall the report seems like a bid to thwart Congress’s own Freedom of Information Act, which protects the rights of the American people to learn about their own government. Americans should ask, if Senator Burr isn’t going to serve his role in the Constitution’s system of checks and balances, then why did he want to be chairman of the intelligence committee? This is a poor start to a chairmanship.”