CIA Sued for Failing to Disclose Senate Torture-Probe Records

The lawsuit comes as the administration is close to declassifying a Senate report on the agency’s one-time interrogation techniques.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) walks off the Senate floor after speaking about the CIA on March 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Feinstein who is Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has accused the CIA of secretly removing documents from computers used by the committee. 
National Journal
Dustin Volz
June 24, 2014, 12:42 p.m.

A pair of open-gov­ern­ment ad­voc­ates are su­ing the CIA for its con­tin­ued secrecy re­gard­ing its al­leged hack­ing of Sen­ate com­puters, mark­ing the latest es­cal­a­tion in a cov­ert war ra­ging between Con­gress and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion over Bush-era tor­ture prac­tices.

Freel­ance journ­al­ist Jason Leo­pold and Ry­an Sha­piro, a doc­tor­al can­did­ate at the Mas­sachu­setts In­sti­tute of Tech­no­logy, filed a law­suit Tues­day on grounds the in­tel­li­gence agency has re­fused to com­ply with Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act re­quests they sent in April. The pair is seek­ing CIA re­cords that per­tain to a clas­si­fied Sen­ate re­view of the agency’s now-de­funct de­ten­tion, rendi­tion, and in­ter­rog­a­tion activ­it­ies.

That re­view gained new at­ten­tion this spring after Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Di­anne Fein­stein ac­cused the CIA of spy­ing on her pan­el in an at­tempt to im­pede its in­vest­ig­a­tion. The power­ful Cali­for­nia Demo­crat, in a blis­ter­ing 40-minute speech from the Sen­ate floor, at­tacked the in­tel­li­gence agency for pos­sibly vi­ol­at­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion by re­moved key files from com­puters used by her staff dur­ing the probe. She ad­di­tion­ally called on the Justice De­part­ment to in­vest­ig­ate wheth­er the CIA had broken the law.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4807) }}

Fein­stein’s the­at­ric­al gam­bit paid off, as her com­mit­tee voted to make a 500-page ex­ec­ut­ive sum­mary of the re­port pub­lic. That sum­mary is cur­rently un­der­go­ing an ex­haust­ive re­dac­tion pro­cess, and the CIA is re­portedly near­ing com­ple­tion of its re­view. The White House is ex­pec­ted to be­gin its re­dac­tion pro­cess soon.

But open-gov­ern­ment act­iv­ists have de­man­ded that the agency re­veal to what ex­tent it was snoop­ing on its Sen­ate over­seers, a tac­tic that, if true, is seen as fun­da­ment­ally un­der­min­ing the sep­ar­a­tion-of-powers prin­ciples of gov­ern­ment en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion.

In April, Leo­pold and Sha­piro filed a sweep­ing in­form­a­tion re­quest with the CIA seek­ing, among oth­er things, cop­ies of “all writ­ten agree­ments and cor­res­pond­ence” between the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and the CIA deal­ing with an agree­ment made to al­low the pan­el’s staffers to ac­cess agency doc­u­ments at its fa­cil­ity in Langley, Va. The pair ad­di­tion­ally sought re­cords “doc­u­ment­ing any CIA in­vest­ig­a­tion” in­to the Sen­ate’s in­vest­ig­a­tion, and any in­tern­al “talk­ing points” cir­cu­lated ad­vising of­fi­cials on how to dis­cuss the con­tro­versy.

But the CIA has not yet com­plied, Leo­pold and Sha­piro said in their law­suit, which is re­quest­ing swift com­pli­ance.

Leo­pold and Sha­piro are well-known and ef­fect­ive open-gov­ern­ment agit­at­ors, and have suc­cess­fully ob­tained gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments that have shed light on a lit­any of sens­it­ive is­sues, ran­ging from the U.S. in­volve­ment in the 1962 ar­rest of Nel­son Man­dela to the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s in­tern­al in­sist­ence to use the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks as a “sound bite” to jus­ti­fy its sur­veil­lance pro­grams.

“The U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity is no­tori­ous for its pro­found hos­til­ity to trans­par­ency,” Sha­piro said. “In the present case, the CIA ap­pears to have spied upon the very Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee tasked with over­see­ing the CIA’s tor­ture pro­gram, while at the same time smear­ing that Sen­ate com­mit­tee’s re­view with un­sup­por­ted al­leg­a­tions of crimin­al­ity.”

The Sen­ate re­port at the cen­ter of the saga, parts of which have been leaked already, is ex­pec­ted to cast an un­flat­ter­ing light on the CIA’s secret in­ter­rog­a­tion tech­niques em­ployed dur­ing George W. Bush’s pres­id­ency, which brought the coun­try in­to two sep­ar­ate wars in Afgh­anistan and Ir­aq.

The CIA was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

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