Government Suspected Of Wanting CIA Torture Report To Remain Secret
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Let's remember a year ago today, the Senate released what's become known as the Torture Report. We learned about the CIA's detention and harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists. But we did not learn everything - far from it, in fact. That report was only a summary of a much larger study that runs nearly 7,000 pages. That full report remains secret, and as NPR's David Welna discovered, the officials who have it might not have even read it.
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: As chairwoman at the time of the Senate Intelligence Committee California Democrat Dianne Feinstein released last year's scathing synopsis of the CIA's recent interrogation activities. Today Feinstein says to really grasp what the CIA did, you have to read the committee's full report.
DIANNE FEINSTEIN: This is where all of the documentation rests, chapter and verse.
WELNA: Which is why Feinstein sent copies of the full classified Senate report to the CIA and to the Justice, State and Defense Departments. She included a letter urging officials to read it and learn from it. Feinstein now suspects those documents were not even opened, much less read.
FEINSTEIN: My general belief is that they don't want these facts out there anywhere.
WELNA: They being?
FEINSTEIN: They being the administration. They being the intelligence community. They being the Justice Department.
WELNA: Last month, Feinstein accused the Justice Department of using a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, lawsuit as an excuse to bar executive branch officials from reading her committee's full report. Reading it might make it an executive branch document subject to FOIA, rather than a congressional document, which is not. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. But Steven Aftergood, who heads the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, says it's clear the government is trying to keep the full report under wraps.
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: It seems to be an attempt to circumvent the law, the Freedom of Information Act, and to defeat the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee by rendering it inaccessible to the government itself.
WELNA: Earlier this year, a federal district court judge ruled that the full report was indeed only a congressional record. The American Civil Liberties Union has appealed that ruling. Hina Shamsi is leading the ACLU's effort to obtain the still-secret full report.
HINA SHAMSI: When the Senate Intelligence Committee transferred the report to the executive branch, stating that the executive branch was free to use and rely upon it, the American public acquired a legal right to the report under the Freedom of Information Act.
WELNA: Shamsi's view of the full report as an executive branch document is decidedly not shared by the Republican who now chairs the Senate intelligence panel.
RICHARD BURR: In my belief, it is a committee document that the committee should take possession of.
WELNA: North Carolina's Richard Burr wants all of the copies of the committee's full report returned to the committee. He contends it was not meant to be read and indeed has not been read by outsiders.
BURR: The CIA has had the opportunity to do it but has chosen not to, as I understand it to this point.
WELNA: A CIA spokesman tells NPR his agency, like the three federal departments that also received copies of the classified full report, is holding onto that document pending the outcome of ongoing litigation. Even if the appeals court rules the full report is indeed subject to a FOIA request, the Federation of American Scientists' Aftergood says few of its 7,000 pages could be read by anyone without a top security clearance, since most of the contents would likely remain classified.
AFTERGOOD: There is very little at stake except for the question of whether the government will learn from this report or relegate it to the dustbin.
WELNA: In the years since the redacted synopsis of the Senate report came out, the Justice Department has opened no new investigations of the CIA's now discontinued interrogation program. Nor has anyone been prosecuted. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.