ACLU: Don’t Let Senate Block Full CIA ‘Torture Report’ Release

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Then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein discusses a newly released Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in Washington, Dec. 9, 2014. Senate TV/Reuters

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a motion in federal court on Tuesday night in an effort to block the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from retrieving all the copies of the committee’s full, unredacted report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program.”  

Last year, the committee, then headed by Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, distributed copies of the 6,900-page report to the White House and various federal agencies. But earlier this year, the committee’s new chairman, Senator Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, demanded that all copies be returned.

“I consider the report to be a highly classified and committee sensitive document,” Burr wrote a January 14 letter to President Barack Obama. “I request that all copies of the full and final report in possession of the Executive Branch be returned immediately to the Committee.”

The motion by the ACLU is the latest move in the group’s ongoing FOIA lawsuit to have the full version of the CIA report released to the general public. If Burr is able to retrieve all copies, it won’t be accessible through FOIA, as congressional records are not covered by the law.

“The full torture report is critical to a full and fair public conversation about what the CIA did and why it continues to defend its unlawful torture program,” said Hina Shamsi, the lead attorney on the ACLU’s case.

“One of the stated purposes of the Senate’s investigation was to help the government ensure that it doesn’t make the same mistakes again, and the Obama administration should reject any cynical efforts that would keep the report and related materials from both the public and the parts of the government that could learn from it.”

Last year, the committee released a 500-page summary of the report, which describes the agency’s “enhanced interrogation program” as brutal and ineffective. The report also said the agency lied to Congress about the effectiveness of its methods. (The CIA has long denied these allegations.)

The White House has not yet commented on Burr’s request or said whether it believes the full CIA report should be made public.

Feinstein, Burr's predecessor, disagreed with the move by the Republican senator. “The purpose of the Committee’s report is to ensure that  nothing like the CIA’s detention and interrogation program…can ever happen again,” she wrote in a follow-up letter. “The realization of that goal depends in part on future Executive Branch decisionmakers [sic] having and utilizing a comprehensive record of this program, in far more detail than what we were able to provide in the now declassified and released Executive Summary.”

As the Huffington Post reported, most of the federal officials who received the unredacted version of the CIA report have yet to read it.