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There Are Interviews with CIA Officials Regarding Torture, and the White House Is Hiding Them

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Transparency and accountability, watchwords of … ha, ha, ha, just kidding.
Credit: Trevor McGoldrick / photo on flickr

When the Senate's report on enhanced interrogation and torture was released earlier this week, one of the immediate defensive talking points from the CIA was that the Senate did not interview any of their employees. The Senate report makes note of this issue in a footnote, saying that the CIA wouldn't require its staff to cooperate and attributed it to a Department of Justice investigation.

Just before that footnote is an additional note that the White House also withheld thousands of documents from the Senate investigation, claiming executive privilege. Brian Doherty wrote about that detail Tuesday.

Apparently among those documents are interviews with about 100 witnesses with information about the interrogation program. The New York Times has filed a lawsuit to try to get access to these reports to see why no charges have been filed as a result of the investigation. The White House is fighting having to disclose the records:

The Obama administration has urged a court to reject a request to disclose thousands of pages of documents from a Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, including summaries of interviews with about 100 witnesses and documents explaining why in the end no charges were filed

The administration made the filing late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times, hours after the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 524-page executive summary of its own investigation into C.I.A. torture. The committee based its report on a review of C.I.A. documents but did not conduct any interviews.

The Justice Department materials, the court filing revealed, include 10 reports and memorandums totaling 1,719 pages — more than three times the number of pages in the Senate report released Tuesday — as well as "numerous" pages of reports on interviews with current and former C.I.A. officials.

According to the Times, the Justice Department is fighting the release of the documents because it would "affect the candor of law enforcement deliberations about whether to bring criminal charges."

Read more here. CIA Director John Brennan gave a press conference this afternoon essentially going over the same points used in the agency's official response (pdf) to the Senate report. When a reporter asked him directly if he thought destroying video tapes of interrogations had been appropriate, he vaguely responded that people "took actions at the time that they believed were the right thing to do. Let's leave it at that." If those are the kind of responses to expect, what exactly were Senate staffers going to get from their own interviews anyway?