Although Barack Obama promised to preserve it in his presidential library, most copies of the CIA torture report detailing the agency’s use of controversial interrogation tactics during George W. Bush’s presidency are finding their way back to the Republican-run Senate Intelligence Committee. According to the New York Times, even the Trump administration has begun returning its copies of the still-classified report in compliance with Sen. Richard Burr’s (R-North Carolina) 2015 request that all distributed copies be returned. Unsurprisingly, top Democrats worry the committee will seal the report in its vaults for good.
In a statement released to MSNBC and other outlets, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the committee’s former chairwoman, expressed her concerns regarding Burr’s request and the White House’s willingness to comply. “The fact that he would take this divisive action without notifying or consulting with the Democrats on the committee is a departure from the bipartisan nature of this committee,” she said. “No senator — chairman or not — has the authority to erase history. I believe that is the intent of the chairman in this case.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), currently the top Democrat on the committee, told CNN he was “very disappointed” in the news. “This study must be preserved for history,” he said, “and the Senate intelligence committee will continue to conduct vigorous oversight of our nation’s intelligence agencies to ensure that they abide by both the spirit and the letter of the law that bans the practices outlined in the report.”
While neither Burr nor the Trump administration has explicitly claimed locking up the classified report for good is their intent, the Times notes the 6,700-page document’s being put in the Senate vaults would “exempt [it] from laws requiring that government records eventually become public.” Since Feinstein and her Senate Intel Committee first commissioned and produced the report in 2014, it has largely remain classified, though a short executive summary was declassified and released in December of that year. Copies distributed to to the CIA, the Justice Department and other agencies have already been returned.