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To safeguard the Senate report on CIA torture, it will be archived in Obama’s presidential papers

Passing the baton
President Obama, right, and President-elect Donald Trump shake hands after their Oval Office meeting Nov. 10.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

A scathing Senate report on the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other torture techniques after the September 2001 terrorist attacks will be archived in President Obama’s presidential papers to ensure it is not destroyed, the White House said Monday.

Defenders of the controversial 6,700-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which ran from 2002 to 2006, worried that Republicans who disputed the critical findings would try to round up and shred the few existing copies once Obama leaves office.

In December 2014, the committee released a partially redacted 450-page executive summary with key findings. The rest of the report remains classified.

It revealed that CIA officials not only had employed cruel and degrading techniques against detainees at secret prisons known as “black sites,” but that the program was so poorly run that the CIA lost track of some detainees.

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It said the CIA repeatedly had given Congress and the Justice Department inaccurate information about the interrogations, impeding government oversight.

It also argued that the CIA’s use of what it called “enhanced interrogation techniques” — which included hitting, sleep deprivation, mock executions and rectal feeding — produced no useful intelligence about imminent threats.

The full Senate Intelligence Committee ordered the report in 2006 after it learned that a senior CIA officer had destroyed about 100 video tapes of the harsh interrogations.

The committee soon split on partisan lines, however. In December 2012, the committee approved the report 9 to 6, with only one Republican voting in favor.

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The other six Republicans wrote a dissent that strongly objected to the study’s conclusion that the painful methods failed to produce actionable intelligence.

CIA Director John O. Brennan did not endorse the harsh techniques. But he said that it was  “unknowable” whether the brutal methods helped or hindered in the collection of useful intelligence.

Obama, who condemned the techniques as torture, signed an executive order when he took office in 2009 requiring the CIA to use only interrogation methods listed in the U.S. Army Field Manual “unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance.”

Donald Trump, now the president-elect, said at a debate in March, “We should go for waterboarding, and we should go tougher than waterboarding.”

He repeated those assertions multiple times on the campaign trail. However, he recently said that he was impressed when Gen. James Mattis, his pick for secretary of Defense, said he could get more reliable information by offering detainees cigarettes and a beer.

The CIA’s inspector general mistakenly destroyed one of the few copies of the full report last summer.

That prompted Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, to ask what the White House was doing to ensure sure copies are preserved for future administrations and, ultimately, public release.

On Friday, Feinstein received an answer.

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“The full Study will be preserved under the Presidential Records Act (PRA)," White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston wrote in a letter to Feinstein and in a similar letter to the committee chair, Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.)

The Obama administration is not working to declassify the full study, Eggleston said, and classified portions “should be restricted for the full twelve years allowed” under the law.

That means the document could remain secret until at least 2028.

Feinstein said Monday that “there are those who would like to see this report destroyed,” but that none of the facts it revealed had been refuted.

“I firmly believe its 6,700 pages and 38,000 footnotes will stand the test of time,” she said in a statement. “I also strongly believe that this must be a lesson learned — that torture doesn’t work.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the committee, said he would continue to push to declassify the study.

“The American people deserve the opportunity to read this history rather than see it locked away in a safe for 12 years,” he said.

Twitter: @ByBrianBennett

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brian.bennett@latimes.com

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