WASHINGTON (Web Desk) – The Central Intelligence Agency has admitted that it “mistakenly” destroyed the only copy of an extensive 6,700-page classified report on torture prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
A CIA official privately told the federal Department of Justice and the Senate Intelligence Committee about the blunder in the summer of 2015, saying that the CIA’s Inspector General – the agency’s internal watchdog – accidentally destroyed both the disk holding the entire report and the file uploaded on the agency’s servers.
However, the destruction of the sensitive report was never admitted in public. Nor was it reported to the federal judge who, at the time, was overseeing a lawsuit seeking access to the still classified document under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a review of court files in the case.
The document reportedly contained “thousands of secret files about the CIA’s use of ‘enhanced’ interrogation methods,” including original CIA cables and memos on its use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other tactics in “black site” prisons overseas.
Acting Inspector General Christopher Sharpley said the IG’s office would obtain a new copy from the CIA, but that has not happened yet and may never happen.
The deletion of the crucial document by the CIA’s internal watchdog organization has raised concerns on part of the US senator who oversaw the torture probe and relaunched the debate over whether the full report should ever be made available to the public, according to Yahoo News.
“It’s breathtaking that this could have happened, especially in the inspector general’s office – they’re the ones that are supposed to be providing accountability within the agency itself,” Douglas Cox, a City University of New York School of Law professor told Yahoo News, which broke the story. “It makes you wonder what was going on over there?”
CIA officials explained the blunder to Senate investigators as an “inadvertent” mistake by the inspector general.
A CIA spokesman told Michael Isikoff, Yahoo’s Chief Investigative Correspondent, about another unopened computer disk with the complete 6,700-page report “which has been, and still is, locked in a vault at agency headquarters.”
“I can assure you that the CIA has retained a copy,” the CIA’s chief of public affairs, Dean Boyd, told Isikoff in an email.
After a US Court of Appeals ruled last week that the document does not fall under the Freedom of Information Act, questions arose over whether it would ever be made public.
It is possible that the deletion of the report is part of a wider strategy to release its findings to as few people as possible. The CIA retains a copy of the full classified report, but is apparently awaiting the conclusion of an ongoing legal battle over the document before any other copies are distributed.
The episode is humiliating for the CIA Inspector General and has inflamed human rights advocates who are hoping for the report to be made public. The full report remains classified, although a 500-page executive summary was released into the public domain.
A federal appeals court panel recently blocked an effort to reveal the full report under the open records law, claiming that it “always has been a congressional document.”
According to Yahoo News, the appeals court was not notified that the inspector general’s copy of the report was destroyed.