Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers

Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers
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President Obama has told Senate intelligence leaders that he will preserve a 7,000-page Senate report on how the CIA detained and interrogated terror suspects after 9/11 in his presidential papers — but won’t seek to declassify the document prior to leaving office.

“The president has informed the Archivist that access to classified material should be restricted for the full 12 years allowed under [the Presidential Records Act],” Obama’s chief lawyer wrote Friday to Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general This week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks MORE (D-Calif.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDOJ plans to show Senate Intel less-redacted Mueller report, filing shows Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon MORE (R-N.C.), the ranking member and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Feinstein, who chaired the committee when it produced the so-called “torture report,” has pushed to release the sprawling document.


“It’s my very strong belief that one day this report should be declassified,” she said in a statement Monday. “The president has refused to do so at this time, but I’m pleased the report will go into his archives as part of his presidential records, will not be subject to destruction and will one day be available for declassification.”

The move will protect a controversial document that some transparency advocates were concerned was in danger of being permanently buried or even destroyed.

As a congressional report, the document was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Feinstein sent copies of the report to the CIA, the Department of the Defense, the Justice Department and the State Department to read and review.

But when Republicans regained control of the Senate, Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) advocated for the return of the document, urging Obama that it “should not be entered into any executive branch system of records.”

Obama did not comply, but he also did not take any steps to designate the report as an agency record that would then be subject to FOIA. Transparency and human rights advocates expressed concern that a future administration could conceivably ensure the destruction of the classified report.

“Given the rhetoric of President-elect [Donald] Trump, there is a grave risk that the new administration will return the Senate report to Senator Burr, after which it could be hidden indefinitely, or destroyed,” wrote former Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home House Democrats poised to set a dangerous precedent with president’s tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (D-Mich.) and former Intelligence Committee chairman Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (D-W.V.) in a recent New York Times op-ed.

The document details the CIA’s use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) that are considered torture by international standards.

The study found many of the CIA’s practices were overly brutal and possibly illegal — as well as ineffective.

Feinstein succeeded in securing the release of a 500-page executive summary of the document two years ago, over the virulent criticism of Republicans who said she was endangering national security.

“There are those who would like to see this report destroyed, but in the two years since its release, none of the facts in the 450-page summary has been refuted,” she said Monday. “The report represents six years of hard work by dedicated staff, and I firmly believe its 6,700 pages and 38,000 footnotes will stand the test of time. I also strongly believe that this must be a lesson learned — that torture doesn’t work.”

President-elect Trump’s frank support of EITs led Feinstein to encourage the White House to declassify and release the entire document this year.

Under a law approved last year, the CIA has been restricted to techniques approved in the Army Field Manual, which prohibits waterboarding but is scheduled to be reviewed during the first year of Trump’s presidency.

Trump has openly pledged a return to the use more controversial tactics.

“Would I approve waterboarding?” he said a year ago. “You bet your ass I'd approve it. You bet your ass — in a heartbeat."

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Trump said he had discussed waterboarding with his pick for Defense Secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis, who, according to Trump, said he preferred getting intel with a "pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers."

Trump’s pick for the director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), has defended the use of EITs and criticized Feinstein for the release of the executive summary, arguing that it “put American lives at risk.”