The new Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman sent a letter to the White House and several federal agencies last week demanding the return of every copy of the Committee’s entire classified CIA torture report. The new chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, also intends to return the notorious Panetta Review to the CIA. Critical of the agency’s false statements regarding the reliability of information obtained through torture, the Panetta Review’s release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been blocked by the CIA.
On December 9, 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released nearly 500 pages of the heavily redacted Executive Summary of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of torture committed and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations. The Committee also accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the abusive backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats against detainees’ family members, and reliability of information acquired through torture.
The CIA claims enhanced interrogation techniques were necessary to determine the secret locations of Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), but the Committee discovered these assertions are false. A CIA detainee provided the agency with information leading to bin Laden’s location before agents subjected him to torture. The detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques withheld and fabricated intelligence.
Abu Zubaydah had been recovering in a hospital when he began cooperating with FBI agents and providing information to them regarding KSM. Insisting Zubaydah was withholding actionable intelligence, CIA interrogators water-boarded him at least 83 times without success. Although Zubaydah had given up the information about KSM weeks before being tortured, the CIA took credit for capturing KSM without acknowledging the FBI’s productive, nonviolent tactics.
In 2009, former CIA Director Leon Panetta authorized access to millions of documents to then-Committee chairperson, Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Documenting the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program between the years 2001—2006, the reports gave a damning account of kidnapping, torture, and murder committed by CIA operatives. At the same time, Panetta ordered the CIA to conduct its own investigation into the documents, now referred to as the Panetta Review.
Over 1,000 pages in length, the Panetta Review found that the CIA had repeatedly overstated the value of intelligence gained through torture. Unbeknownst to CIA Director John Brennan, the Senate Intelligence Committee had access to the classified Panetta Review. After five CIA employees — two lawyers and three computer specialists — hacked into files and emails belonging to the Committee, Brennan confronted Sen. Feinstein and accused her Committee of breaching the CIA’s firewall and stealing the Panetta Review. CIA Inspector General David Buckley found his agency guilty of hacking into the Committee’s computers and admonished the five CIA employees.
A CIA accountability panel recently overturned Buckley’s findings. According to an agency news release, Buckley is planning to leave the CIA at the end of the month.
Because the CIA has blocked the Panetta Review’s release under FOIA, Sen. Burr intends to return every copy to the agency in order to suppress the information contained within the inflammatory review. As the new Chairman of the Committee, Burr also wrote letters to the White House and other federal agencies insisting they return all copies of the roughly 6,900-page Senate report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Since executive branch agencies are obligated to respond to FOIA requests, Burr wants the copies of the torture report returned to Congress, which is not subject to such requests.
“In December, when the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly released portions of its report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, I sent the full, 6,900-page classified report to the executive branch for use by appropriately cleared officials at the White House, CIA, and other parts of the government,” Feinstein stated on Tuesday. “This was consistent with the committee’s vote to approve the report in December 2012 and declassify portions of it in April 2014.”
“I strongly disagree that the administration should relinquish copies of the full committee study, which contains far more detailed records than the public executive summary,” Feinstein continued. “Doing so would limit the ability to learn lessons from this sad chapter in America’s history and omit from the record two years of work, including changes made to the committee’s 2012 report following extensive discussion with the CIA.”
Only two people have been convicted in relation to the CIA’s torture program. After revealing the torture program during an interview with ABC News, former CIA case officer John Kiriakou was charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison for giving CIA interrogator Deuce Martinez’s business card to New York Times reporter Scott Shane.
CIA contractor David Passaro was sentenced to 8 years and four months in prison for beating Afghan detainee Abdul Wali to death with a metal flashlight.
Mark Swanner, the CIA interrogator responsible for the death of Manadel al-Jamadi at the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003; Matthew Zirbel, the CIA officer who killed black site detainee Gul Rahman; and Jose Rodriguez, Jr., the CIA Director of National Clandestine Service who authorized the burning of 92 videotapes depicting the harsh interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and ’Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri; have not been charged with any crimes.