A long-awaited Senate report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program likely won’t be declassified until this summer, the Department of Justice revealed in court documents on Thursday.
The DOJ also raised the issue that the release of the 500-plus-page executive summary of the report could pose a threat to Americans overseas. In the documents, the government stated that the White House will need “sufficient time” to implement “security measures to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and facilities overseas.”
The new details about the status of the voluminous report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were disclosed in a court filing in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the CIA last January. That case is seeking a copy of the so-called Panetta Review, which Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and several other lawmakers have characterized as the CIA’s own internal study on its torture program that matches up with the Senate panel’s report. Leon Panetta is a former director of the CIA.
“While the CIA is working expeditiously to complete its declassification review, this review requires coordination with classification experts, subject matter experts, several other agencies, and senior level government officials that will likely be completed this summer, although an exact time cannot now be determined,” the DOJ court filing stated.
“In addition, once the review process is complete, the Administration will have to undertake a number of security steps to protect the safety of U.S. personnel abroad. Thus, several aspects of the declassification review and release are outside of the CIA’s control,” it added.
The “Panetta Review” and the Senate committee’s access to the internal study is currently the subject of separate inquiries by the FBI and DOJ. The CIA alleges that Senate staffers walked out of a secure facility in northern Virginia in possession of the “Panetta Review” documents that they were not authorized to access. Feinstein and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., have accused the CIA of monitoring the computers the agency had set up for Senate investigators to review the classified documents related to the agency’s rendition, detention and interrogation program.
While the CIA is working expeditiously to complete its declassification review, this review requires coordination with classification experts, subject matter experts, several other agencies, and senior level government officials that will likely be completed this summer.
Department of Justice
In January, government lawyers said they were prepared to process “Panetta Review” documents for release by May 22. But in Thursday’s court filing, the government said it needed more time because the Senate report takes precedence.
“Due to the fluid nature of this process, aspects of which are beyond the CIA’s control, the Agency does not yet have a firm date by which it can complete the processing of the internal study, although it hopes the declassification review and accompanying processing of the so-called internal study can be completed this summer,” Justice Department lawyer Vesper Mei wrote in a motion submitted in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Mei also attached an April 18 letter White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler sent to Feinstein that said the executive branch has started to review the executive summary, findings and conclusions. Ruemmler reiterated the need to alert and prepare overseas personnel prior to the release of the document. She also noted that President Barack Obama has asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to oversee the declassification process.
Mei said the government expects to have a “more definitive idea” over the next several weeks about how long the declassification review and security measures will take, and intends to update the court at that time on the CIA’s progress.
Al Jazeera first reported that the Senate’s report concluded that some of the techniques used in CIA interrogations were not legally authorized and went beyond those authorized by George W. Bush’s Justice Department.
Additionally, the report concluded that the CIA knowingly misled the White House, Congress and the Justice Department about the intelligence value of some of the CIA’s high-value captives and leaked information about the alleged success of the torture program to the media.
The Intelligence Committee probe began in 2009 after revelations that the CIA had destroyed nearly 100 interrogation videotapes, one of which showed a high-value prisoner being waterboarded, according to court documents.
The Senate committee originally voted to approve its 6,200-page report in December 2012. But the CIA claimed the report was flawed and demanded substantive changes. The committee voted to approve a final version of the report in April and agreed that the executive summary should be publicly released.
White House letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of Select Committee on Intelligence
Court document on the Central Intelligence Agency’s study on detention and interrogation program