The CIA inspector general’s office said it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of an extensive Senate torture report — a report officials with the Department of Justice assured a federal judge was being preserved — Yahoo News’ chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff reported Monday.
Though the DOJ has insisted that other copies of the report exist, the deletion of the crucial document by the CIA’s internal watchdog organization has raised concern on the part of the U.S. 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.
Agency officials explained the blunder to Senate investigators as an “inadvertent” mistake by the inspector general.
How does a “mistake” like this happen? An intelligence community source told Isikoff that “in a series of errors straight ‘out of the Keystone Cops’” CIA inspector general officials apparently deleted an uploaded computer file with the report before accidentally destroying a disk containing that same document.
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 used at “black site” prisons overseas.
“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 who specializes in tracking the preservation of federal records, told Isikoff. “It makes you wonder what was going on over there?”
More from Yahoo:
The incident was privately disclosed to the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Justice Department last summer, the sources said. But the destruction of a copy of the sensitive report has never been made 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.
A CIA spokesman told Isikoff that another unopened computer disk with the complete 6,700-page report “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 U.S. 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.
In 2014, the committee’s vice chair, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, released a 500-page executive summary of the report, which stated that the CIA’s interrogation methods were far less humane than the agency had publicly admitted and were unreliable in providing accurate intelligence. Feinstein’s conclusion was met with backlash from Republicans on the panel and from four former CIA directors.
Last Friday, Feinstein wrote CIA Director John Brennan, asking him to “immediately” supply a new copy of the full report to the inspector general’s office, Yahoo reported.
“Your prompt response will allay my concern that this was more than an ‘accident,’” the email read, according to Yahoo.