from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 38
April 24, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


The Senate Intelligence Committee has been reviewing the post-9/11 detention and interrogation practices of the Central Intelligence Agency for four years and is still not finished. But the end appears to be in sight.

"The review itself is nearing completion -- before the end of summer -- but is not over yet," a spokesperson for the Committee said. "The release date should be not too far thereafter, but is not set."

"This review is the only comprehensive in-depth look at the facts and documents pertaining to the creation, management, and effectiveness of the CIA detention and interrogation program," according to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who was chairman of the Intelligence Committee when the review began in 2008.

Committee staff are said to have reviewed millions of pages of classified documents pertaining to the CIA program.

In newly published questions for the record following his confirmation hearing last year to be Director of the CIA, Gen. David Petraeus was asked by Senator Rockefeller if he would cooperate with the Committee review.

"I believe that a holistic and comprehensive review of the United States Government's detention and interrogation programs can lead to valuable lessons that might inform future policies," Petraeus replied.

"The best way to gain a common set of facts would be to reach out to the intelligence and military communities responsible for detentions and interrogations and for implementing future policies," he added. "[T]o gain the proper insights from a series of actions or decisions, we cannot separate the review process from the public servants undertaking the actions," he said.

Gen. Petraeus also responded to questions concerning interrogation in the "ticking time bomb" scenario (he says "research is required now"), and the applicability of official U.S. government statements on the use of drones to CIA operations (which he declined to confirm), among other topics.

His responses to these questions were published earlier this month in the record of his June 23, 2011 confirmation hearing.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the current chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, provided a preview of the Committee's findings on CIA interrogation practices in a November 29, 2011 floor statement during the debate on the FY2012 defense authorization act.

"As chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, I can say that we are nearing the completion a comprehensive review of the CIA's former interrogation and detention program, and I can assure the Senate and the Nation that coercive and abusive treatment of detainees in U.S. custody was far more systematic and widespread than we thought," Sen. Feinstein said.

"Moreover, the abuse stemmed not from the isolated acts of a few bad apples but from fact that the line was blurred between what is permissible and impermissible conduct, putting U.S. personnel in an untenable position with their superiors and the law."


Government attorneys yesterday asked a court for an extension of time to respond to two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking disclosure of records pertaining to "alleged targeted lethal operations" conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency, including the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

The attorneys' request seems to portend a possible change in the government's persistent refusal to acknowledge the widely reported fact of the CIA's use of drones in targeted killing operations.

"Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. has personally directed us to seek this additional time to allow the Government to finalize its position with regard to the sensitive national security matters presented in this case," the Justice Department attorneys told the judge.

"Given the significance of the matters presented in this case, the Government's position is being deliberated at the highest level of the Executive Branch."

At issue are two FOIA lawsuits brought by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union. The request for an extension until May 21, 2012 was granted by Judge Colleen McMahon.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has just released its 2011 report on FOIA litigation and compliance.

Among other things, the report notes that the so-called "Glomar" response -- by which an agency refuses to confirm or deny the existence of responsive records -- was invoked by the government in three cases that were decided in 2011. In each of those cases, the court ruled in favor of the government.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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