ACLU Statement on Trump Administration Effort to Bury CIA Torture Report
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is having at least two federal agencies give their copies of the Senate’s CIA torture report back to the Senate, according to a report by The New York Times.
“It would be a travesty for agencies to return the CIA torture report instead of reading and learning from it, as senators intended,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “The landmark investigative report documents horrific abuses and details of CIA lies to the White House, Congress, the courts, and the public about its torture program. This critically important investigation should have been made public and must not be buried or destroyed.”
The report on the CIA’s Bush-era detention and torture program documents the abuse of dozens of prisoners and finds that the CIA lied about the torture program to Congress, the White House, and the public. In December 2014, at the request of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Obama administration released the 524-page executive summary, but the full 6,000-plus page report remains classified.
The ACLU fought a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking to make the full report public, but the case was dismissed, and in April the Supreme Court declined to consider it. In seeking Supreme Court review, the ACLU had described the risk that the report might be returned to the Senate and never see the light of day.
In December 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent the full report to several executive branch agencies, including the Departments of Justice, Defense, and State, as well as to the CIA itself. The chairman of the committee at the time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), asked that the full report be made available within the executive branch in order to learn from the mistakes of the past to ensure that they are not repeated.
When Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) became the committee chairman, he asked federal agencies to return their copies of the report in an apparent effort to keep it secret. In response to an emergency motion by the ACLU in its FOIA lawsuit, the agencies committed to retaining their copies of the full report while litigation was pending.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed that he would not return the Justice Department’s copy of the report to the Senate. Also, the nominee for CIA general counsel, Courtney Simmons Elwood, committed during her confirmation hearing to read the full report, but the CIA is one of the agencies that returned its report. Her confirmation vote is set for Tuesday in the Senate.
President Obama deposited a copy of the full report with the National Archives, but it can’t be made public for at least 12 years — and may never be.
In a foreword to the report’s executive summary, Sen. Feinstein wrote that the full report “provides substantially more detail than what is included in the Executive Summary on the CIA’s justification and defense of its interrogation program on the basis that it was necessary and critical to the disruption of specific terrorist plots and the capture of specific terrorists.”
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