President Barack Obama is archiving his copy of the entire so-called Senate Torture Report, it was disclosed Monday, suggesting the study of CIA interrogations used in secret overseas prisons would be made public in 2028.
Obama provided notice of his plan to make the 6,700-page report part of the presidential record to some in Congress in a letter from White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston dated Friday — two days after lawyers for the alleged Sept. 11 plotters urged the case’s military judge to order preservation of a copy of it.
At issue is a bid by Senate Republicans to recover all existing copies of the graphic Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s 2002-06 Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program, and fears by lawyers in the 9/11 case that lurid descriptions of what agents did to the men accused of conspiring in the attack might vanish.
A declassified summary of the report suggests there are entire chapters on the waterboarding, rectal and other abuse of the men who were brought to Guantánamo and charged as the alleged plotters of the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein was chairman of the committee that created the report. She disclosed Eggleston’s letter Monday, revealing that Obama had ordered a copy of the Top Secret Report be maintained in his presidential papers.
“There are those who would like to see this report destroyed, but in the two years since its release, none of the facts in the 450-page summary has been refuted,” Feinstein said in a statement.
She said the report “represents six years of hard work by dedicated staff, and I firmly believe its 6,700 pages and 38,000 footnotes will stand the test of time. I also strongly believe that this must be a lesson learned — that torture doesn’t work.”
Feinstein also urged that the full report be declassified “one day,” something Obama has so far refused to do.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, also a Democrat, declared himself disappointed that Obama wasn’t using his executive authority to declassify the full report now. “The American people deserve the opportunity to read this history rather than see it locked away in a safe for 12 years. When the president-elect has promised to bring back torture, it is also more critical than ever that the study be made available to cleared personnel throughout the federal government who are responsible for authorizing and implementing our country’s detention and interrogation policies.”
Last week at the war court, David Nevin, the defense attorney for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, said undisclosed chapters of the report “show medical experimentation. They show torture. They show extremely important facts that can be offered in mitigation on behalf of Mr. Mohammed.”
Attorney Jay Connell for Mohammed’s nephew, Ammar al Baluchi, one of the five men charged in the 9/11 death-penalty case, said there was a copy of the Top Secret report at the Department of Defense and the military judge should order its preservation with other case classified information. “You don’t have to read it,” Connell told the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl.
The concern, he said, is that Feinstein’s intelligence committee chair successor, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, had recalled all existing copies from the executive agencies now run under the Democratic administration to include the FBI, CIA, Department of Justice and National Intelligence Directorate, among others. It is thought that eight executive copies exist.
Obama’s lawyer said the president’s “determination that the study will be preserved under the PRA [Presidential Records Act] has no bearing on copies of the study currently stored at various agencies.”
“Consistent with the authority afforded to him by the PRA, the president has informed the archivist that access to classified material, among other categories of information, should be restricted for the full 12 years allowed under the act. At this time, we are not pursuing declassification of the full study.”
At the White House Monday, spokesman Josh Earnest said declassification of the entire study is not assured. “Ultimately the intelligence community will have to review the material that's included in that report to determine what can be released,” he told reporters. “And I certainly think the hope is that there will be an opportunity for the American public to consider the findings of the report and learn some lessons about what kinds of steps we want to take as a country to protect ourselves and how important it is to ensure that those steps are consistent with our values.”
The advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights hailed Obama’s decision to include the study in his papers.
“Preserving this report and ensuring it cannot be destroyed to cover up evidence of wrongdoing is a critical step forward in fully accounting for the brutal, illegal campaign of torture waged in the wake of 9/11,” it said.
“There is a great deal more to be known about how psychologists, physicians, and other health professionals were systematically co-opted to deploy their skills to harm instead of heal, and how medical ethics were cast aside to aid and abet torture.”