Dem: GOP trying to 'erase history' with return of spy files

Senate Democrats are pushing back at an effort by the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to exercise tight control of classified documents about the CIA.

They have are protesting moves by Intelligence Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLoeffler traded .4M in stocks as Congress responded to coronavirus pandemic Before this pandemic ends, intel agencies should prepare for a world of threats DOJ probing stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of coronavirus crisis: report MORE (R-N.C.), who had asked the White House to return a classified, 6,900-page study and is planning to send a separate document that is currently in committee hands back to the CIA.

Both documents detail at length the CIA's former interrogation techniques — such as waterboarding — that critics, including many Senate Democrats, consider to be torture.

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Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Democratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus MORE (D-Vt.) on Thursday accused Burr of trying to “erase history” by demanding the White House return the analysis to the Senate.

“Those Republicans who are in denial about this dark chapter in our history will stop at nothing to keep it under wraps,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises Coronavirus takes toll on Capitol Hill GOP chairman cancels Hunter Biden-related subpoena vote MORE (D-N.M.) said it would be “unprecedented and misguided” for the White House to comply with the request.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Zoom CEO says company reached 200 million daily users in March MORE (D-Ore.), meanwhile, said returning it would “aid defenders of torture who are seeking to cover up the facts and rewrite the historical record.”

Before losing control of the Senate late last year, Democrats on the committee released a 500-page executive summary of their interrogations report, which accused the CIA of misleading its overseers in Washington while carrying on interrogations that it said were ineffective at stopping terror attacks. At the same time, then-Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a copy of the full, classified report to the White House to share with relevant intelligence agencies.

Earlier this month, Burr demanded that the White House give it back.

In a letter to the White House, Burr said that the report was “committee sensitive” and said all copies should be returned to the panel. The move appears to be designed to prevent it from seeing the light of day through an open records law or a leak.

Burr’s reported position is that Feinstein’s decision to hand the report to the White House violated the panel’s rules.  

On Thursday, he declined to discuss his motivations for asking for the report back “until this whole thing is resolved.”

At some point, “somebody will determine whether they had the authority to do what they did,” Burr told The Hill off the Senate floor.

Additionally, the chairman reportedly intends to return to the CIA an internal review document of its practices that the spy agency conducted under former Director Leon Panetta.

The agency never intended to give the document to the Inteligence panel, and the committee’s possession of it has inspired heightened tension between the CIA and Capitol Hill. At one point, bickering over the report led to mutual accusations that each arm of government was spying on the other.

The White House on Thursday declined to comment about whether it would return the report to the Senate.