The internal watchdog of the Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a mammoth Senate torture report at the same time lawyers for the Justice Department were assuring a federal judge that copies of the document were being preserved, as initially reported by Yahoo News.
According to multiple intelligence community sources familiar with the incident, although copies of the report exist, the erasure of the controversial document by the watchdog has alarmed Senator [crscore]Dianne Feinstein[/crscore], who oversaw the torture investigation two years ago, and reignited a debate over whether the entire report should ever be released.
The 6,700-page report contains meticulous details, including original CIA cables and memos, on the agency’s use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other aggressive interrogation methods at “black site” prisons overseas. A 500-page executive summary was released in December 2014.
The deletion of the document has been portrayed by agency officials to Senate investigators as an “inadvertent” act by the inspector general. In what one intelligence community source described as a string of errors, CIA inspector general officials deleted an uploaded computer file with the report and then accidentally destroyed a disk that also contained the document, filled with thousands of secret files about the CIA’s use of “enhanced” interrogation methods.
The matter was disclosed to the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Justice Department last summer, according to sources familiar with the matter. However, the destruction of a copy of the sensitive document has never been publicized.
Additionally, it was not reported to the federal judge who, then, oversaw a lawsuit which sought access to the classified information under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a review of court files in the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled last week the document is not subject to FOIA.
The Daily Caller acquired copies of letters — one addressed to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the other to CIA director John Brennan — Feinstein sent last week.
In the letter to Brennan, Feinstein demanded his agency provide a new copy of her report to the CIA IG “immediately.” Feinstein added, “Your prompt response will allay my concern that this was more than an ‘accident.'”
Addressing Lynch, Feinstein wrote, “The CIA IG should have a copy of the full Study because the report includes extensive information directly related to the IG’s ongoing oversight of the CIA,” in which the DOJ declared to the federal judge last year — as part of the ongoing FOIA investigation — “it can assure the Court that it will preserve the status quo regarding the Full Report absent either leave of court or resolution of this litigation in the government’s favor.”
Despite the deletion, many members of the CIA expressed wariness of the torture report from the start. “Feinstein’s report started as an attempt to get to the bottom of whether these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were valuable,” a former intelligence officer told The New Yorker. “For many at the agency, just asking the question is unpatriotic.”
The intelligence agency is not commenting on the development. Dean Boyd, the agency’s chief of public affairs, told Yahoo News, “I can assure you that the CIA has retained a copy.”