Reject Request to Return Torture Report, Groups Tell Obama

On January 28, several advocacy groups joined The Constitution Project in expressing “serious concern” that executive branch agencies have apparently ignored the Senate Intelligence Committee’s full report on CIA torture since receiving it more than six weeks ago.

In letter to President Obama, the groups wrote that failure to examine the full report “would deprive executive branch decisionmakers of their best chance to learn from a dark chapter of U.S. history and would raise serious questions about your commitment to a future free from government-sanctioned torture.”  They urged the president “to embrace [the report], and to ensure that your administration does as well.”

Last December, the committee released a declassified version of the executive summary of its 6,900 page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after 9/11.  The summary detailed the use of brutal interrogation techniques that most consider torture.  At the same time, a full-length version of the still-classified report was delivered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the former chair of the committee, to the White House and other executive agencies for use by appropriately cleared officials.

The current committee chair, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), reportedly sent a letter to the White House asserting Feinstein should never have supplied the documents to the executive branch and demanded their immediate return.  TCP President Virginia Sloan condemned the request in a press release, saying “Chairman Burr’s disheartening attempt to bury the full truth about U.S. torture flies in the face of the constitutional responsibilities he bears as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.”  Feinstein also released a statement saying she “strongly disagree[s] that the administration should relinquish copies of the full committee study.”

The ACLU filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act seeking release of the full report.  The U.S. government’s January 21 response in that lawsuit revealed that none of the executive branch agencies that received a copy had made any meaningful use of it, and several had not even opened the package that contained it.

“Whether these actions are motivated by indifference or an attempt to circumvent the public’s access to the full report under the Freedom of Information Act, they are unacceptable,” the groups told the president.  If the executive branch agencies transferred the full report back to the committee, it might complicate the ACLU lawsuit because congressional documents are largely exempt from FOIA.

Among the groups joining TCP in signing the letter were the Center for Constitutional Rights, the  Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights First, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Open Society Policy Center and OpenTheGovernment.org.

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