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Jan 18 2017

Misty Eyed

As in, “Don’t be gettin’ all,” over Barack Obama’s departure.

The transition period has been a time to reflect on the failures of his Administration, kind of an anti-Greatest Hits Album of broken promises, missed opportunities, and fecklessness. I’d almost be sorry if it wasn’t clear that Obama’s worst policies weren’t so clearly deliberate and evil.

For instance who can forget this nefarious ear worm-

DOJ, Obama Administration Fight Order Requiring The Full CIA Torture Report To Be Turned Over To The Court
by Tim Cushing, Tech Dirt
Tue, Jan 17th 2017

The Obama administration has responded to calls to declassify the full CIA Torture Report with a “will this do?” promise to lock up one copy in the presidential archives. While this ensures one copy of the full report will survive the next presidency, it doesn’t make it any more likely the public will ever see more than the Executive Summary released in 2014.

Other copies may still be scattered around the federal government, many of them in an unread state. The Department of Defense can’t even say for sure whether its copy is intact. Meanwhile, an ongoing prosecution in which the defendant is alleging being waterboarded by the CIA has resulted in an order to turn over a copy of the full report to the court.

This order would preserve a second full copy — with this copy being as close as we’ve gotten so far to seeing it become part of the public record. Of course, the DOJ is challenging this court order on behalf of the Obama administration, which certainly never intended to participate in this much transparency. Charlie Savage of the New York Times notes (on his personal blog) that a motion has been filed seeking to reverse the court’s preservation/deposit order.

The judge had ordered a copy to be filed with the Court Information Security Officer (CISO). The DOJ argues [PDF] that this isn’t necessary because the CIA has its copy locked up real tight-like.

While it’s technically true the CIA hasn’t destroyed any copies of the Torture Report, its oversight has. In May of last year, it was discovered that the CIA’s Inspector General had destroyed the copy he’d received, thanks to a string of counterproductive “normal business” decisions.

The accidental deletion of the IG’s copy was possibly in violation of another preservation order stemming from ongoing FOIA litigation. The CIA was under orders to preserve its copy(ies), which means its oversight office should have been doing all it could to ensure its copy didn’t disappear. If the CIA somehow managed to destroy its copies of the report, its oversight should have been in position to act as its backup, not to mention come down on it for any acts of impropriety. Instead, it took a copy and immediately — if possibly inadvertently — threw it away.

So, while the DOJ may firmly believe in all that is good and right and trustworthy about government officials holding onto damning documents, it can’t rule out the possibility of human error. So, to better ensure preservation in accordance with the order, it should be less reluctant to hand over a copy to the court CISO, which would at least shift the culpability should this copy end up missing.

The obvious conclusion is that the outgoing administration (to say nothing of the incoming replacement) is still very interested in keeping the full report from ending up in the public’s hands. Delivering a copy to the court makes it a part of the judicial process which, despite its tendency to seal documents and dockets far too frequently, is a much more open process than shuffling copies around from lockbox to lockbox within federal government agencies.

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