White House won’t return spy doc without court approval

The Obama administration isn’t planning on handing 6,900 classified pages of a Senate Intelligence Committee report back to Capitol Hill, until a court has time to weigh in.

In a court filing on Friday, the Department of Justice said it would let a lawsuit over the secret report play out before giving it back to Congress, as the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee has asked.

ADVERTISEMENT

At the same time, however, the Obama administration seemed to support Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP's Tillis comes under pressure for taking on Trump Warner says there are 'enormous amounts of evidence' suggesting Russia collusion McCarthy dismisses Democrat's plans: 'Show me where the president did anything to be impeached' MORE’s (R-N.C.) claim that it should not have been given the full report in the first place, potentially boosting his claims.

The report is a “congressional document,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in the Friday filing, however the administration “will preserve the status quo regarding the full report absent either leave of court or resolution of this litigation in the government’s favor.”

At issue is the full, unredacted version of the blistering report Democrats on the Intelligence Committee wrote about the CIA’s former “enhanced interrogation” techniques, such as waterboarding, which many people consider to be torture. Democrats released a 500-page executive summary to the public late last year, but the full version of the report remains classified.

Committee Democrats also gave copies of the full report to the White House and other top administration offices in December.

Burr, who took over as chairman at the beginning of the year, has said that action was inappropriate and demanded the White House give back all copies of the report in its possession. He has said the report is a congressional document that should not be in the hands of the administration, and some executive agencies — which have not even opened the report — appear to agree with him.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has for years been involved in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to release the full report. Last month, it filed a motion asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the White House from giving the report back, until the court has time to rule. 

The DOJ urged the court to deny the ACLU’s motion, though it pledged that it won’t return or destroy the report without the court's consent.

At the same time, it said the ACLU is “not likely to succeed on the merits” of its argument.

The ACLU withdrew its motion to block the report handoff on Monday and claimed victory.

“We now have the on-the-record commitment we sought from the CIA and other agencies that they refused to provide before we filed our emergency motion,” ACLU attorney Hina Shamsi said in a statement. “Although the CIA is still fighting to prevent the American public from seeing the full torture report, this dispute is for the court to decide.”

--This report was updated at 12:20 p.m.