The Trump administration said on Friday it delivered to a federal court vault in Washington, D.C., a Justice Department copy of the so-called Senate Torture Report on the CIA’s secret prison network during the George W. Bush administration.
The Obama administration had balked at turning over a copy to any court.
But Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler, who joined the Justice Department on Jan. 30 from the Jones Day firm, notified the court that “the government deposited for the Court Information Security Officers (CISOs) for secure storage a complete and unredacted electronic copy of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.”
The damning 6,700-page report documents abuses in the CIA program that waterboarded some captives, rectally abused others and held at least 119 foreign prisoners out of reach of the International Red Cross or attorneys during the Bush administration.
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Lawyers at the Guantánamo war court had wanted military judges to obtain and preserve copies of the report for use in the Sept. 11 and USS Cole death-penalty cases of six men who spent years in the CIA prisons called Black Sites. The chief judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, refused but eventually ordered the Pentagon to safeguard one of its copies.
So attorneys turned to the federal court, where judges handling the mostly dormant unlawful detention cases of two Guantánamo captives — Abd al Rahim al Nashiri and Zayn al Abdeen Mohammed al Hussein, known as Abu Zubaydah — ordered a copy sent to their safe.
At issue had been concerns that, once the Democrats who created the report in 2014 lost control of the Senate, the Republican Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Richard Burr of North Carolina, would scoop up and make disappear copies that his predecessor, Dianne Feinstein of California, had distributed to select departments during the Obama administration.
Instead, Friday’s filing said a copy that “had been previously delivered to the Department of Justice Office of Legislative Affairs” was delivered to the U.S. District Court at 333 Constitution Ave. in Washington in compliance with court orders in the habeas corpus cases of Nashiri and Zubaydah.
Nashiri’s death penalty defender, Rick Kammen, called delivery of the document “a big deal because we know that at least one copy will be preserved for future litigation.”
In the Nashiri case, Judge Royce Lamberth “made it clear that the failure to comply with his order would be dealt with harshly,” Kammen said.
“I'm not too surprised the administration complied,” he added. The Trump White House “had a pretty bad week in court,” an apparent reference to the frozen Executive Order on immigration, he said, “and another slap down would not have been pretty.”