The Trump administration has begun to send the most thorough account of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” program back to Congress, raising the possibility that the only copies will be locked away in Senate vaults in perpetuity, exempt from public disclosure laws.
Senator Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, asked for all copies of the full 6,700-page report to be returned in 2015, finding it flawed and overly critical of the CIA, which ran the program. Burr is now conducting an investigation into possible connections between Trump officials and Russia during last year’s presidential campaign.
The report was the result of an investigation by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which found that the effects of the spy agency’s interrogation methods were more brutal and less effective than the CIA claimed. A declassified summary of the report was made public in 2014, but the full history remains in the hands of the executive branch, after the CIA returned its copies and a number of other agencies refused to keep copies themselves.
The story of rendition, interrogation, black sites—all out of the reach of American legal systems—has been widely reported (and partially turned into a fiction-based-on-fact film), but detailed evidence of what happened remains out of public view. In 2005, CIA officials destroyed the only known video evidence of post-9/11 interrogations; a 2007 New York Times report on the destruction sparked the Senate’s decision to embark on an independent investigation to begin with.
Speaking to the New York Times, which first reported the White House’s move, Katherine Hawkins, senior counsel at the advocacy group The Constitution Project, called it “extremely disturbing.”
[Photo: Flickr user Diego Cambiaso]