CIA officials are claiming that a computer file and a disc containing the report were both deleted and destroyed.
This development occurs at an inopportune time, as Justice Department lawyers told a federal judge that the agency had in fact preserved copies of the controversial report.
After learning of the deletion, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee that released a highly-redacted 500-page summary of the report in 2014, quickly wrote to current CIA director John Brennan, asking him to provide another full copy of the report to the office of the inspector general.
"Your prompt response will allay my concern that this was more than an 'accident,'" Feinstein wrote Brennan, also saying that the unabridged report contains "extensive information directly related to the IG’s [inspector general] ongoing oversight of the CIA."
Douglas Cox, a law professor at City University of New York, and a federal records preservations specialist, was quoted in a Yahoo News article saying, "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…It makes you wonder what was going on over there?"
The 500-page 2014 summary concluded that torture techniques used by the CIA at secret overseas prisons (commonly called “black sites”) were much crueler than had been publicly acknowledged, and that such techniques did not consistently yield useful intelligence. These “enhanced interrogation” techniques included sleep deprivation and waterboarding, an act designed to simulate drowning.
The 500-page summary was made public just after the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) sued to obtain the full report in 2013, under the Freedom of Information Act. However, a unanimous federal court ruling declared last week that the full report is a Congressional document, and therefore not obtainable under FOIA.
The ACLU wrote in a brief that, "The summary describes how the CIA repeatedly misled Congress, the Justice Department, the White House, the media, and the public about its torture program—including misrepresentations about the 'effectiveness' of torture, the brutality of the agency’s techniques, and the number of detainees in its custody."
The ACLU also pointed to mixed signals from the executive branch, with some agencies trying to block the release of the full report, even though President Barack Obama commented in an official statement that the summary confirmed his "long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as a nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests."
Before Senator Feinstein ended her tenure as committee chair, she gave instructions that computer disks containing the full report be sent to the CIA and the OIG, along with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies. She also sent a copy to the CIA inspector general, so that they could conduct a review. Feinstein says she did this so "that the system of detention and interrogation described in this report is never repeated."
Her successor, Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina has now twice asked for agencies who received the full report to return their copies.
The ACLU is currently looking for ways to appeal the decision keeping the full report from being released to the public.
The CIA said, in a statement, that the agency will wait until litigation has been finalized before taking any other action regarding the report.