The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding the CIA, and the Departments of Defense, Justice, and State release a 6,900-page report of a comprehensive investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 program of detention, torture, and other abuse of detainees. The report was produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and describes horrific human rights abuses by the CIA. It also chronicles the agency’s evasions and lies to Congress, the White House, the media and the public. The ACLU is also seeking a report commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, which is reportedly consistent with the SSCI investigative report findings, but contradicts the CIA’s official response to the SSCI.
The full torture report is the most comprehensive account of the torture program to date. It took more than three years to complete, and is based on the review of millions of CIA and other records, although the CIA refused to let Senate investigators interview its employees.
In December 2014, the SSCI sent the full torture report to several executive branch agencies. Then-SSCI Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked that the full report be made available within the executive branch to help make sure that the CIA’s detention and torture program is never happens again.
The following month, the new Chairman of the SSCI, Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), wrote to President Obama with an unprecedented request: he asked that the agencies transfer their copies of the full torture report back to the Senate. Senator Burr’s request—an attempt to evade FOIA and to keep the report from the American public—has been roundly condemned by members of the SSCI and other Senators.
The response to the SSCI’s public release of the torture report’s executive summary shows how important it is for the full report to be released. The summary describes how the CIA repeatedly misled Congress, the Justice Department, the White House, the media, and the public about its torture program—including misrepresentations about the “effectiveness” of torture, the brutality of the agency’s techniques, and the number of detainees in its custody. It generated global attention and spurred renewed calls for investigation and prosecution of the architects of the torture program. President Obama described the executive summary as reinforcing “my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as a nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests.” Yet executive branch agencies are fighting the release of the full torture report.
Following years of litigation and advocacy by the ACLU, the government has released over 100,000 pages of documents concerning the abuse and torture of detainees by the CIA and Department of Defense. (These records are indexed and searchable through our Torture Database.) However, relatively few of those documents — only 106 of approximately 5,000 — were authored by the CIA. The release of the full torture report and the Panetta Report is necessary to illuminate the program’s legal and moral failings, the CIA’s internal view of its program, and to make sure the CIA never again engages in unlawful detention and torture.