Trump administration begins returning copies of Senate report on CIA torture

The Senate report on the CIA’s rendition and interrogation practices after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Senate report on the CIA’s rendition and interrogation practices after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Miami Herald file photo

The Trump administration has begun returning copies of a voluminous 2014 Senate report about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program to Congress, complying with the demand of a top Republican senator who has criticized the report for being shoddy and excessively critical of the CIA.

The Trump administration’s move, described by multiple congressional officials, raises the possibility that copies of the 6,700-page report could be locked in Senate vaults for good — exempt from laws requiring that government records eventually become public. The CIA, the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA’s inspector general have returned their copies of the report, the officials said.

The report is the result of a yearslong investigation into the CIA program by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, telling the story of how — in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — the CIA began capturing terrorism suspects and interrogating them in secret prisons beyond the reach of the U.S. judicial and military legal systems. The central conclusion of the report is that the spy agency’s interrogation methods — including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other kinds of torture — were far more brutal and less effective than the CIA described to policymakers, Congress and the public.

READ MORE: “Obama to preserve his copy of CIA ‘Torture Report’

It is the most comprehensive accounting of the Bush-era program that exists, and a declassified executive summary of the report was made public in December 2014 — with the support of some Republicans on the committee.

The committee, which was then run by Democrats, also sent copies of the entire classified report to at least eight federal agencies, asking that they incorporate the report into their records — a move that would have made it subject to requests it be made public under the Freedom of Information Act. That law does not apply to congressional records.

The agencies all refused, and instead kept their copies of the report locked up and unread, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the CIA for access to the full Senate document.

READ MORE: “9/11<XA> trial judge orders Pentagon to preserve a copy of the CIA ‘Torture Report’ ”

After Republicans took over the Senate in early 2015, Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, the chairman of the committee, asked the Obama administration to return all the copies of the report that had been sent to the CIA, the Pentagon, the Justice Department and other executive-branch agencies.

The Obama administration instead left the matter to the courts, and the case was still being heard when the Trump administration took over. It ended in April, clearing the way for the agencies to return their copies of the report.

Burr has called the report nothing more than a “footnote in history.” His committee is now conducting an investigation into whether any of Trump’s campaign advisers or associates assisted in the Russian effort to disrupt last year’s presidential campaign.

The return of the report to the Senate committee “is extremely disturbing on a number of levels,” said Katherine Hawkins, senior counsel at the Constitution Project, an advocacy organization. “First, it remains absurd that no one in the executive branch will open the full report. Second, Sen. Burr’s ongoing attempts to bury the torture report casts doubt on his willingness to follow the facts to conclusions that would damage the administration in the Russia probe.”

The CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence both declined to comment.

The full report is not expected to offer evidence of previously undisclosed interrogation techniques, but the interrogation sessions are said to be described in great detail. The report explains the origins of the program and names the officials involved, and also offers details on the role of each agency in the secret prison program.

READ MORE: “Trump Justice Department delivers CIA ‘Torture Report’ to federal court”