When the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) agreed to declassify and release the executive summary of the 6,000 page investigation into the CIA’s use of torture last April, it also agreed to allow the White House to review the 480 page document for review. The White House announced that the CIA would take the lead in that review, virtually leaving the decision on what if any incriminating evidence that they tortured in the hands of the accused.
The writers at Techdirt have been joking about the “buckets of black ink” that would be “dumped” on the report. After weeks of waiting, no one should be surprised that the heavily redacted document that was returned to the SSCI on August 1 was barely coherent.
Late Friday, Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that the White House had returned the executive summary, but she’s a bit overwhelmed by all the black ink and is holding off releasing the document until her staff can look into why there were so many redactions:
“The committee this afternoon received the redacted executive summary of our study on the CIA detention and interrogation program.
A preliminary review of the report indicates there have been significant redactions. We need additional time to understand the basis for these redactions and determine their justification.
Therefore the report will be held until further notice and released when that process is completed.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper responded that Sen. Feinstein’s complaint was unfounded stating that there were “minimal redactions,” claiming that 85% of the document was not blacked out. Techdirt‘s Mike Masnick thinks Clapper may have been counting the margins
Of course, as Marcy Wheeler has pointed out, this is just about the executive summary of the report — which was specifically written to be published. In other words, the really “secret” stuff is in the rest of the report, but the 408 page exec summary was written with public disclosure in mind — meaning that the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers certainly wrote it with the expectation that it would need few, if any, redactions. So the fact that large chunks of it were redacted immediately set off some alarms.
SSCI Chairperson Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) released this statement:
After further review of the redacted version of the executive summary, I have concluded that certain redactions eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions. Until these redactions are addressed to the committee’s satisfaction, the report will not be made public.
I am sending a letter today to the president laying out a series of changes to the redactions that we believe are necessary prior to public release. The White House and the intelligence community have committed to working through these changes in good faith. This process will take some time, and the report will not be released until I am satisfied that all redactions are appropriate.
The bottom line is that the United States must never again make the mistakes documented in this report. I believe the best way to accomplish that is to make public our thorough documentary history of the CIA’s program. That is why I believe taking our time and getting it right is so important, and I will not rush this process.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), a member of the SSCI, also released a statement condemning the redactions as nothing more that a cover up of “embarrassing information:”
The redactions that CIA has proposed to the Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogations are totally unacceptable. Classification should be used to protect sources and methods or the disclosure of information which could compromise national security, not to avoid disclosure of improper acts or embarrassing information. But in reviewing the CIA-proposed redactions, I saw multiple instances where CIA proposes to redact information that has already been publicly disclosed in the Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse that was reviewed by the administration and authorized for release in 2009. The White House needs to take hold of this process and ensure that all information that should be declassified is declassified.
Another committee member, Sen Mark Udall (D-C)) thought it was very clear that Director Clapper’s intentions were to distort the record
While Director Clapper may be technically correct that the document has been 85 percent declassified, it is also true that strategically placed redactions can make a narrative incomprehensible and can certainly make it more difficult to understand the basis for the findings and conclusions reached in the report. I agree wholeheartedly that redactions are necessary to protect intelligence sources and methods, but the White House must work closely with this committee to reach this goal in a way that makes it possible for the public to understand what happened.
According to a report in McClatchy, the summary carefully used pseudonyms of covert CIA agents and foreign countries that was much of what was blacked out:
Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told McClatchy on Monday that the blackouts _ officially known as redactions _ were made to pseudonyms used for both covert CIA officers and foreign countries.
“No covert CIA personnel or foreign countries are named in the report,” he said. “Only pseudonyms were used, precisely to protect this kind of information. Those pseudonyms were redacted (by the administration).”
All of the pseudonyms were excised from the version of the executive summary that the White House returned to the committee on Friday, a person familiar with the issue said.
Lawmakers seem willing to accept some redactions, but others made by the CIA and the White House would make it difficult or impossible to understand the subject being discussed, especially when a pseudonym appears in multiple references, said the knowledgeable person, who requested anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
The Intercept‘s Jeremy Scahill joined MSNBC’s Alex Wagner on “NOW” to discuss the dispute over the redacted report
The CIA tortured and the US government approved it and still continues some forms of torture It is now actively engaged in the continued refusal to prosecute the crimes and still trying to make it sound like it was just a “mistake.” Waterboarding someone 183 times is not a mistake, it is a crime, a war crime. No amount of “awe shucks” statements by President Barack Obama that “we tortured some folks” or calling the perpetrators “patriots” will excuse the fact that they broke the law.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence should just release the executive report. The Justice Department should do its due diligence and prosecute the tortures and those who authorized it. Director Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan should be fired and prosecuted for lying to the Senate and their roles in the torture program. Pres. Obama should uphold his oath of office or be impeached.