CIA Inspector General: Yeah, I Accidentally Deleted The Only Copy Of the Agency's Interrogation Program

Posted: May 17, 2016 11:45 AM

Well, the CIA’s inspector general is sort of stepping in it this week. He accidentally deleted the only copy of the Senate report that detailed the controversial interrogation program used during the Bush administration. Reportedly, some instructions regarding storing and deletion got crossed, but human rights activists see this as a “broader effort to erase the practices from history” (via the Hill):

The CIA’s inspector general has accidentally deleted its only copy of a controversial Senate report about the agency’s history of brutal interrogation techniques, opening a new front in the long battle over the document.

Like many federal agencies across Washington, the spy agency watchdog was handed a copy of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s full, 6,700-page report about the CIA’s former methods shortly after it was completed. The full version of the report remains classified, however a 500-page executive summary was released to the public in late 2014.

But at some point last summer, both the electronic copy and a hard disk were destroyed, the watchdog told Congress.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the driving force behind the 2014 report, sent letters to the CIA and Justice Department on Friday confirming that the spy agency’s inspector general “has misplaced and/or accidentally destroyed” its copy of the report.

According to Yahoo News, which first reported the development, the deletion was described as “inadvertent.”

Acting inspector general Christopher Sharpley uploaded the report to the office's internal computer network and then destroyed the hard disk, apparently following standard protocol, the news outlet reported. Then, someone else in the watchdog’s office reportedly misinterpreted instructions from the Justice Department not to open the file and deleted it from the server.

The CIA, in which the inspector general’s office sits, retains a copy of the full report, and is waiting for the conclusion of a legal battle over the document.

Still, the episode is a humiliating one for the CIA inspector general and has inflamed human rights advocates hoping to make the report

Cori Crider, a director with the international rights group Reprieve, called it “stunning,” and suggested that it is part of a broader effort to erase the practices from history.

“One worries that no one is minding the store,” Crider said in a statement.

That allegation can go both ways. When the report was released in December of 2014, it was obviously a hatchet job that was part of Democrats’ favorite pastime: bashing President George W. Bush. Guy took this report to the woodshed, noting—among other things—that staffers in the Senate Intelligence Committee didn’t even bother to interview six CIA Directors and assistant directors who oversaw the program. That’s a glaring issue that only reinforces the point that this was a partisan exercise. Second, he aptly noted that there is a holier than thou element, given that there’s been a deafening silence on the left over the Obama administration’s expansion of targeted killings by drone strikes, some of which have included American citizens. There’s an argument to be had that these may have been extrajudicial killings of American citizens that deprived them of their constitutional rights. The president had a kill list. Do you honestly think if Bush had such a list—and it was reported by the news media—there wouldn’t be calls for impeachment? Of course there would have been. The interrogations happened, they may have saved lives, and now they’re prohibited.

There’s a debate as to whether we engaged in torture during the Bush years, but there will be one surrounding whether the Obama administration was illegally killing American citizens. Both are unpleasant, though the latter takes the cake.