Court rules to keep classified ‘torture’ docs secret

Court rules to keep classified ‘torture’ docs secret
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A district court judge on Wednesday blocked an effort by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to force the CIA to turn over classified records about brutal interrogation programs the agency used to run.

While a 500-page declassified version of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report” was released last December, the full, 6,900-page version remains classified. So does a controversial set of CIA documents created as part of an internal review started by former Director Leon Panetta. 

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They will stay secret, a judge on the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia declared Wednesday. 

The full version of the Senate Committee report is a document of Congress and exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Judge James Boasberg wrote.

“At the end of the day, the ACLU asks the Court to interject itself into a high-profile conversation that has been carried out in a thoughtful and careful way by the other two branches of government,” he wrote

“To be sure, [the ACLU] — and the public — may well ultimately gain access to the document it seeks,” Boasberg added. “But it is not for the court to expedite that process.”

Meanwhile, the set of CIA documents — known as the “Panetta Review” — are similarly exempt from the law, since they are covered by FOIA exceptions for documents that might harm national security, are internal “deliberative” discussions and are protected by other laws.

Those 40-some documents were at the bottom of a deep divide between the CIA and the Intelligence panel last year, over which then-Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinTrump's Democratic tax dilemma Feinstein: Trump immigration policies 'cruel and arbitrary' The Memo: Could Trump’s hard line work on North Korea? MORE (D-Calif.) made the momentous accusation that the CIA had spied on the Senate.

The “Panetta Review” was started but never finalized by the CIA during the course of the Senate panel’s investigation into the agency's "enhanced interrogation" program, and never should have gotten into the hands of the Intelligence Committee, the CIA has said.

After agency officials realized that congressional staffers had gotten hold of it, some CIA employees broke into the Senate’s walled-off side of a shared computer in order to find the documents and determine how the committee had obtained them. 

The report is said to agree with the conclusions of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report” about the ineffectiveness and brutality of the CIA’s techniques. 

The court’s ruling about the “Panetta Review” on Wednesday mirrors a March ruling from the same judge. At the time, Judge Boasberg sided with the CIA against a journalist who filed a similar FOIA case against the agency for keeping the documents secret.