Posts

CIA’s NSC’s President’s Torture Program'>The CIA’s NSC’s President’s Torture Program

One more diversionary post before I delve into why the Administration is so worried about releasing a short phrase that, I suspect, acknowledges that George Bush’s September 17, 2001 Memorandum of Notification authorized the torture program.

National Security Advisor Jim Jones submitted a declaration supporting Administration efforts to keep the authorization behind the torture program secret

I want to reflect on what it means that then-National Security Advisor Jim Jones submitted a declaration–sometime in Fall 2009–to keep this short phrase hidden. The government revealed that, though without hinting at what Jones had to say, in the October 29, 2009 closed hearing with Judge Alvin Hellerstein.

MR, LANE . We think the first Issue before we get to documents is your Honor had asked us to specifically identify the second declarant. There is a second declaration in this case. And we wanted to put that on the record that that declaration is from James L. Jones, Assistant to the President for National Security and National Security Advisor,

AUSA Sean Lane then goes on to make clear that Jones’ declaration argues why Hellerstein should withhold the few word acknowledgment that the Memorandum of Notification authorized the torture program.

THE COURT: Both [Jones’ declaration and a second sealed one from CIA Associate Information Review Office Wendy Hilton] support the argument for maintenance of the redactions.
MR. LANE: Correct, your Honor. They both address what the government ties been calling “the Intelligence method” withheld from the two OLC memos, and the Court has been referring to as “The source of the CIA’s authority.”

So it’s not just that–as I inaccurately suggested the other day–that the CIA is trying to keep this short phrase noting that the President authorized the torture program secret. The National Security Advisor–for all intents and purposes, the President himself–is going to some lengths to keep that phrase secret as well.

Read more

The Memorandum of Notification the CIA Pretends Has Never Been Acknowledged

“We don’t do that sort of thing,” [Glenn Carle responded to a CIA Counterterrorism Center Deputy about “going beyond SERE” with a detainee].

“We do now,” Wilmington’s voice was flat. The conversation remained quiet.

“What about EO12333? We’ve never done that sort of thing. The Agency’d never do that. We’d need a finding, at least.”

[snip]

“We have it.” Wilmington’s manner brightened a little. “We have a letter from the president. We can do whatever we need to do. We’re covered.”

–Glenn Carle, The Interrogator: An Education, approved by CIA’s Publication Review Board prior to its summer 2011 publication

Yesterday, I described how the CIA appears to be refusing to release via FOIA any mention–or even a substitution mention–of references to the September 17, 2001 Presidential Memorandum of Notification the government claims authorizes torture and a bunch of other activities.

In this post I’d like to deal with AUSA Tara LaMorte’s March 9, 2012 claim that what I believe to be the MON has never been acknowledged before.

And that’s important because here, the references to [half line redacted] contained in the OLC memos reveals for the first time the existence and the scope of [1.5 lines redacted] That has never before been acknowledged, and would be acknowledged for the first time simply by revealing [few words redacted] in the OLC memos.

Now, as it happens, the CIA made an extensive declaration about the MON in a statement from Marilyn Dorn, the CIA’s Information Review Officer, back in 2007. The description of it–item 61–starts on page 34.

The declaration is actually pretty funny. ACLU had asked for any declarations signed by the President authorizing the torture program. There is none. So in her declaration, Dorn as much as said this MON–which doesn’t mention interrogation–was the MON in question.

Item No. 61 requested a “Directive signed by President Bush that grants CIA, the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and/or outlining interrogation methods that may be used against Detainees.” The CIA did not locate a document signed by President Bush outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees. The CIA did locate one document signed by President Bush that pertains to the CIA’s authorization to set up detention facilities outside the United States. The document responsive to Item No. 61 is a 14-page memorandum dated 17 September 2001 from President Bush to the Director of the CIA pertaining to the CIA’s authorization to detain terrorists.

So in response to ACLU’s FOIA, which basically said, “give us the legally-required MON that authorized torture,” Dorn said, “we don’t have one, but here’s what we’ve been using for all these years.” That’s pretty significant acknowledgment of what kind of authorization underlies the torture program.

Read more

The CIA Continues to Cover Up Bush’s Authorization of Torture

Reading the unredacted sections of this ex parte hearing on the ACLU’s torture FOIA leads me to suspect the CIA is trying to keep hidden all mention of Bush’s September 17, 2001 Memorandum of Notification authorizing a range of counterterrorism activities.

Take a look, first of all, at the discussion about Judge Alvin Hellerstein’s problems treating something that is redacted in the “second and fourth” OLC memos as an Exemption 3 sources and methods withholding. He objected, apparently, because the redacted information was not a method, but instead the source of authority.

Judge Carney: Judge Hellerstein rejected the characterization of that as a method, and said instead this is a source of authority.

[snip]

JUDGE CARNEY: I have a follow up, if I may.

So if I understand the government’s position, your position Is the material redacted from the second and fourth OLC memos was properly exempt under Exemption 1, and that Judge Hellerstein’s ruling then was somewhat incomplete in that he rejected and demanded that you use an alternative characterization under–he rejected it under Exemption 3. He was saying this was, a source of authority, not a method.

[snip]

MS. LA MORTE: I don’t recall an expressed ruling in the transcript about Exemption 1. I think what Judge Hellerstein’s thought process was, was that this was a source of authority, and that’s it, not an activity, not a method.

Now, we know what the source of authority for the torture program was thanks to reporting on it–it was purportedly authorized by Bush’s September 17, 2001 Memorandum of Notification. Here’s how the NYT described it as early as 2006.

According to accounts by three former intelligence officials, the C.I.A. understood that the legal foundation for its role had been spelled out in a sweeping classified directive signed by Mr. Bush on Sept. 17, 2001. The directive, known as a memorandum of notification, authorized the C.I.A. for the first time to capture, detain and interrogate terrorism suspects, providing the foundation for what became its secret prison system.

LaMorte’s descriptions introducing these particular OLC redactions make it fairly clear that the authorization in question is the one that authorized the capture and detention of top Al Qaeda figures–that is, the September 17 MON.

Ms. La Morte: [In response to a question about sources and methods redactions] That’s absolutely correct. So, for example, in the OLC memos, [1.5 lines redacted] So that program was a program where the CIA was authorized to capture international terrorists abroad, detain them in foreign countries, and interrogate them using not only standard methods but enhanced interrogation techniques.

But that detention, that CIA detention and interrogation program, was a program that [3 paragraphs redacted]

I love how she makes a point of calling this a “CIA detention and interrogation” program; we know that the finding that authorized the program actually didn’t lay out the interrogation program. She seems awfully concerned about insisting that the MON authorized not just capture and detention, but also interrogation; I’ll explain a likely source of her concern in a follow-up post.

She goes on to suggest that if these passages in the OLC memos were revealed, it would amount to the first time this content–presumably the Presidential MON–were revealed.

And that’s important because here, the references to [half line redacted] contained in the OLC memos reveals for the first time the existence and the scope of [1.5 lines redacted] That has never before been acknowledged, and would be acknowledged for the first time simply by revealing [few words redacted] in the OLC memos.

I’ll rip this claim to shreds in a subsequent post. But for the moment I’d like to point to what I think are the redactions in question.

As noted above, Judge Carney said these redactions are in the second and fourth OLC memos. As part of the same exchange, Judge Richard Wesley makes it clear they are in one of the March 10 and the March 30 memos.

Page 29 of the March 10, 2005 Techniques memo includes this passage:

Interrogators (and other personnel deployed as part of this program) are required to review and acknowledge the applicable interrogation guidelines. See Confinement Guidelines at 2; Interrogation Guidelines at 2 (“The Director, DCI Counterterrorist Center shall ensure that all personnel directly engaged in the interrogation of persons detained pursuant to the authorities set forth in [half line redacted]

And in addition to the large redactions on page 4 and 5 of the March 30, 2005 CAT memo–which appear to provide general background on the torture program and therefore might address authorization–page 7 includes a reference to the same Tenet Guidelines.

Any interrogation plan that involves the use of enhanced techniques must be reviewed and approved by “the Director, DCI Counterterrorist Center, with the concurrence of the Chief, CTC Legal Group.” George J. Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence, Guidelines on Interrogations Conducted Purusant to the [half line redacted].

Here’s the Guidelines on Interrogation in question. You will be thoroughly unsurprised the authorities referenced in the title, as well as most of the paragraph that lays out those authorities, are redacted.

As I noted, I will have a follow-up post or two on this one. But it appears that amid the big argument whether waterboarding is an intelligence method or not is one the CIA is fighting just as aggressively: whether or not it has to reveal the already widely-reported fact that George Bush unilaterally authorized all this torture on September 17, 2001.

Read more

Dear Judge Hellerstein: Ask About the OLC Torture Documents, Too

On Friday, Judge Alvin Hellerstein had a hearing to figure out how to end the contempt suit the ACLU brought against the CIA for destroying the torture tapes. The ACLU asked that he hold the CIA in contempt. Hellerstein said that wouldn’t serve much purpose. The ACLU suggested that he could hold individuals–presumably meaning Jose Rodriguez–in contempt. In the end, Hellerstein asked the two sides to brief him with suggestions. He seems likely, however, to do two things:

  • Require the CIA to do a report for him to explain how they’ll prevent such a thing from happening in the future
  • Meet with John Durham to hear what he learned in his investigation and make as much of that public as possible

Now, I’m all in favor of getting a very complete report very public report of how the CIA destroyed evidence of torture. The citizens of this country deserve–at the very least–an overview of the investigation and a clear explanation of the roles of the public figures like Porter Goss and John Rizzo. We deserve to know what John McPherson said about the earlier damage done to the torture tapes after John Durham immunized him–and whether Jose Rodriguez and George Tenet pressured him to lie about it. We deserve to know how this relates to all the lies CIA told Congress. We deserve to know each point when the White House got involved in this process.

But I bet you a quarter that Durham will say he can’t make any of this public, because of that mythic ongoing investigation into torture.

It’s what they do.

But as for the homework assignment Hellerstein plans on giving the CIA, to provide him with a report that will convince them they will prevent this kind of evidence disappearing in the future?

It has to go further than the torture tapes themselves.

As I cataloged last year, a great deal of evidence pertaining to torture disappeared over the years:

  • Before May 2003: 15 of 92 torture tapes erased or damaged
  • Early 2003: Gitmo commander Mike Dunlavey’s paper trail documenting the torture discussions surrounding Mohammed al-Qahtani “lost”
  • Before August 2004: John Yoo and Patrick Philbin’s torture memo emails deleted
  • June 2005: most copies of Philip Zelikow’s dissent to the May 2005 CAT memo destroyed
  • November 8-9, 2005: 92 torture tapes destroyed
  • July 2007 (probably): 10 documents from OLC SCIF disappear
  • December 19, 2007: Fire breaks out in Cheney’s office

While we have no idea what, if anything, got destroyed in Cheney’s fire, we do know that CIA, DOD, DOJ, and the State Department (along with whoever owned the server on which John Yoo sent his most classified emails about torture) all somehow “lost” evidence pertaining to torture. It’s not just CIA’s problem, it’s the entire executive branch, seemingly losing torture evidence left and right.

And at the very least, Hellerstein ought to demand the very same kind of report from DOJ as he’s asking for from CIA. I mean, has DOJ done anything to make sure the drafts that go into our secret legal opinions authorizing the executive branch to ignore the law don’t disappear, as they did here?? Has DOJ done even the presumably minimal things CIA has done to make sure such documents don’t keep disappearing when they become inconvenient or dangerous? And what about John Yoo’s emails? What has DOJ done, Judge Hellerstein should ask, to find John Yoo’s missing emails and make sure similar emails don’t go missing in the future?

It’s not just the CIA that treated Judge Hellerstein’s order with contempt. So did DOJ. And yet our Justice Department is not even being held to the very low standard that our nation’s spooks are.

Did DOJ “Lose” the Smoking Gun Torture Document?

You know what I find surprisingly absent from the OPR Report?

Any discussion of how–just days after potentially receiving a document making clear that SERE techniques were torture and that torture was not effective–John Yoo still authorized the use of torture in US interrogations.

Here are the last two paragraphs of that document:

(U) Another important aspect of the debate over the use of torture is the consideration of its potential impact on the safety of U.S. personnel captured by current and future adversaries. The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel. While this would have little impact on those regimes or organizations that already employ torture as a standard means of operating, it could serve as the critical impetus for those that are currently weighing the potential gains and risks associated with the torture of U.S. persons to accept torture as an acceptable option.

(U) CONCLUSION: The application of extreme physical and/or psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably, the potential to result in unreliable information. This is not to say that the manipulation of the subject’s environment in an effort to dislocate their expectations and induce emotional responses is not effective. On the contrary, systematic manipulation ofthe subject’s environment is likely to result in a subject that can be exploited for intelligence information and other national strategic concerns. [my emphasis]

This document was written by JPRA–the people that administer the SERE program from which our torture program was purportedly reverse-engineered. It provides clear evidence that, on July 25, 2002, JPRA was aware of an ongoing debate over whether or not to use torture with prisoners in US custody. The document clearly states that torture leads to unreliable information. And the document calls these techniques “torture.”

You’d think, if there were proof Yoo had read it, that OPR would include some discussion of how JPRA’s expert opinion that this was torture should have affected Yoo’s own definition of torture (heck–JPRA’s language here would be more on point than the “organ failure” language that Yoo and Jennifer Koester used to define torture). You’d think, given the experts’ opinion that torture produced unreliable information, OPR would have challenged Yoo’s acceptance of the CIA’s claims that torture was the only way to get Abu Zubaydah to reveal the intelligence they claimed he had. You’d think OPR would ask Yoo why–given his reliance on the same JPRA experts to claim that waterboarding didn’t cause psychological harm–he chose to ignore this document from JPRA.

This document, in other words, ought to be a cornerstone of OPR’s analysis of Yoo’s failure to provide independent analysis and include all relevant information about what constituted torture. It ought to be used as proof that Yoo knew he was authorizing what the experts deemed to be torture.

If OPR had proof Yoo read this document, it would be the “smoking gun” that when he wrote the torture memo he knew he was deliberately authorizing torture.

But it’s not clear whether Yoo did read it. And it’s not clear that if he did, proof to that fact would still have been in OLC’s collection of torture documents by the time OPR got around to reviewing those documents.

Read more

It’s Not Just the Emails DOJ Lost, It’s the Backup Documentation

We’ve been talking quite a bit about John Yoo and Patrick Philbin’s emails on the torture memos that OLC deleted: with a rebuttal of John Yoo’s claims there were no email, a report on the National Archives’ attempts to learn what happened, and a catalog of damning facts we learned from the few emails left over.

But it’s not just the emails that are missing. It’s also some of the backup documentation. Some of the documents that went into the production of the torture memos–and should have been reviewed by OPR over the course of its investigation–disappeared some time in the last 5 years.

As I reported last September, after some delay in a FOIA response, Acting head of OLC, David Barron confessed that OLC could not find all of the documents that it had first listed on a 2006 FOIA response.

The problem, as Barron explained in his declaration, seems to stem from three things: CIA, not OLC, did the original FOIA search in 2005 and at that time did not make a copy of the documents responsive to FOIA; for long periods OPR had the documents, lumped in with a bunch of other torture documents, so it could work on is investigation; the documents got shuttled around for other purposes, as well, including other investigations and one trip to the CIA for a 2007 update to the FOIA Vaughn Index. [Here’s the 2007 Vaughn Index and here’s the Vaughn Index that accompanied Barron’s declaration last September.]

And, somewhere along the way, at least 10 documents originally identified in 2005 as responsive to the FOIA got lost.

Poof!

The 10 Missing Documents

Here’s a list of the short descriptions of what disappeared:

  • Document 6, 07/25/2002, 46 [or 60 or 59] page Top Secret [or Secret] memo providing legal advice
  • Document 20, 09/12/2003, 1 page Top Secret memo requesting legal advice
  • Document 47, 07/07/2004, 1 page Top Secret memo providing legal advice
  • Document 77, 08/16/2004, 2 page Top Secret memo providing legal advice
  • Document 142, undated 2 page Top Secret memo requesting legal advice
  • Document 155, undated 3 page Top Secret draft memo with attached handwritten notes requesting legal advice
  • Document 172, undated 5 page Top Secret memo requesting legal advice
  • Document 175, undated 6 page Top Secret draft memo providing legal advice
  • Document 177, undated 10 page Top Secret draft memo providing legal advice
  • Document 181, undated 127 page Top Secret draft memo providing legal advice

Why did CIA do the FOIA responses?

Now, before I get into why this is troubling in terms of the OPR Report, let me just challenge a claim Barron made in his declaration. He explained that CIA, rather than OLC, had done the first and second FOIA searches this way:

CIA attorneys were initially given access to the OLC Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (“SCIF”) in 2005 to search for documents responsive to the FOIA request at issue in this litigation. CIA attorneys conducted the search because no OLC attorneys assigned at the time to the processing of FOIA requests had the clearances needed to access and review the documents.

It’s not entirely clear when CIA would have been rifling through OLC’s SCIF drawers in 2005 (and Barron apparently doesn’t feel like telling us). But it would have come after Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered the CIA to respond to the FOIA on February 2, 2005 (they had been refusing to respond to his order to do so from the previous fall). And they would have done it over the next year and a half. In any case, it would have happened after Daniel Levin wrote his unclassified torture memo, about which the OPR Report explains,

Virtually all of OLC’s attorneys and deputies were included in the review process,

And it would have happened during or after the drafting of the Bradbury memos, about which the OPR Report explains,

Bradbury circulated drafts of his memoranda widely within the Department.

Granted, the OPR Report doesn’t say the Bradbury Memos were circulated widely within OLC, but when they had an incentive to make the claim, DOJ later claimed that the torture memos, which would have been the same compartment as all the FOIA documents, were widely circulated. It seems unlikely that Levin’s memo was reviewed by “virtually all of OLC’s attorneys,” but that the following year they couldn’t find a single OLC lawyer to put together a FOIA response.

And what seems even more curious is that rather than invite CIA to OLC’s SCIF to do the updated FOIA response in 2007–at a time when the documents were under investigation–DOJ would instead send all the documents over to CIA for them to do it.

In 2007, the documents were recalled from OPR by OLC so that they could be sent to the CIA for processing and for purposes of updated the unclassified Vaughn Index submitted in this matter.

It’s sort of funny that DOJ took fewer cautions with these documents after they were actively under investigation than they did beforehand. Here, DOJ seems to have said to the CIA, see if you can’t make some of these documents accidentally blow into the Potomac on your way back to DOJ…

Three Troubling Documents

Now, it’s hard to tell what disappeared, since we don’t actually get to see either the documents that disappeared or those the DOJ thinks might be close matches. But three of the documents, in particular, trouble me.

Document 6, 07/25/2002, 46 [or 60 or 59] page Top Secret [or Secret] memo providing legal advice

Here’s the longer description of this document submitted in the 2007 FOIA response:

Document No. 6 is a 60-page document dated 25 July 2002 that consists of a 3-page memorandum and six attachments of 2 pages, 7 pages, 10 pages, 13 pages, 13 pages, and 12 pages, respectively. It is classified SECRET.

The memorandum and attachments contain confidential client communications from the CIA on a matter in which it requested legal advice from OLC.

Aside from the fact that DOJ has said, at different times, this packet of information was 46, 60, and 59-pages long (and that the same FOIA claims it is classified both Top Secret and Secret), the questions about this document alarm me because I’m fairly certain this is the packet of JPRA information sent OLC in the last days of drafting of the first torture documents. It’s going to take me a full post to explain the many reasons questions about this document’s provenance is problematic–tune in next post for the next installment of disappearing evidence!

Read more

CIA OIG’s Wild Parsing about What Was “Depicted” on the Torture Tapes

I wanted to point out a somewhat weedy detail about how the CIA IG Report describes the torture investigation as compared to how the CIA’s Office of Inspector General described that investigation in court filings last year.

As you’ll recall, after the CIA admitted to the destruction of the torture tapes in 2007, the ACLU filed to hold the CIA in contempt for not having revealed the existence of the torture tapes earlier in their torture document FOIA. In response, the OIG submitted a filing and a declaration describing why they hadn’t revealed the existence of the tapes.

The filing explained that CIA had no obligation to search its operational files in response to the ACLU’s FOIA unless those files had been the subject of an investigation.

Moreover, the videotapes were not responsive to Plaintiffs’ FOIA requests because the activities depicted on the videotapes were not the subject of a CIA OIG investigation of allegations of impropriety in Iraq, or any other investigation conducted by CIA OIG. Under the Central Intelligence Agency Information Act (“CIA Information Act”), the CIA’s operational records are exempt from search or review in response to FOIA requests unless an exception to the Act applies. One exception is where the records requested are the specific subject matter of an investigation by CIA OIG into allegations of impropriety or illegality in the conduct of an intelligence activity. 50 U.S.C. § 431(c)(3). Here, CIA OIG did not conduct an investigation into allegations of impropriety or illegality relating to the interrogations on the videotapes prior to their destruction. Therefore, the tapes were exempt from search and review in response to Plaintiffs’ FOIA requests up to the time of their destruction. [my emphasis]

And the declaration went on to make certain claims about the relationship between the CIA IG investigation and the subject matter of the torture tapes.

In January 2003, OIG initiated a special review of the CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program. This review was intended to evaluate CIA detention and interrogation activities, and was not initiated in response to an allegation of wrongdoing.

[snip]

At no time prior to the destruction of the tapes in 2005 did OIG initiate a separate investigation into the interrogations depicted on the videotapes.

Read more

CIA Wants to Stall All Summer on IG Report

Ut oh. The ACLU asked the CIA to stop stalling on production of the CIA IG report. And now the CIA has invented a reason to stall until the August 31 deadline that Hellerstein has given them–they want to review the 318 other documents it owes the ACLU first.

As we explained to the Court and Plaintiffs when Plaintiffs first raised the prospect of expediting the Special Review Report, the Report poses unique processing issues. It is over 200 pages long and contains a comprehensive summary and review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. The Report touches upon the information contained in virtually all of the remaining 318 documents remanded for further review. Although the Government has endeavored in good faith to complete the review of the Special Review Report first, as we have gone through the process, we have determined that prioritizing the Report is simply untenable.

In this instance, we have determined that the only practicable approach is to first complete the review of the remaining 318 documents, and then apply the withholding determinations made with respect to the information in those documents to the Special Review Report.

[snip]

One month into that process, we have concluded that we must review all of the documents together, and that the review will take until August 31, 2009.

Shorter the CIA: Obama said we have to make this stuff public. So we’re going to buy ourselves two more months until we make it public.

If Judge Hellerstein allows them.

Update: The ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer responds (via Spencer):

The CIA has already had more than five months to review the inspector general’s report, and the report is only about two hundred pages long. We’re increasingly troubled that the Obama administration is suppressing documents that would provide more evidence that the CIA’s interrogation program was both ineffective and illegal. President Obama should not allow the CIA to determine whether evidence of its own unlawful conduct should be made available to the public. The public has a right to know what took place in the CIA’s secret prisons and on whose authority. 

Why the CIA Would Want to Hide May 2002 from Judge Hellerstein (and the ACLU)

Update July 20: See this post for the CIA’s explanation for the gaps in May’s production and the timelines. While their explanation makes them permissible to withhold, it doesn’t change the underlying reasons why they may have wanted to withhold them.

I’ve had a couple of really weedy posts examining the CIA’s response to the torture FOIA (Cherry-Pick One, Cherry-Pick Two, FOIA Exemptions). And I wanted to pull back a bit, and explain what I think they might mean.

We’re getting all these documents because the CIA is trying to avoid being held in contempt for not revealing the now-destroyed torture tapes in a response to this FOIA in 2004. At that time, the CIA had to reveal the torture related documents held by its Inspector General or Office of General Counsel. When ACLU learned of the torture tape destruction, it argued that the tapes should have been included in that FOIA compliance and certainly should not have been destroyed. The CIA argued, though, that since the Inspector General had never physically had the tapes, they were not responsive to the original FOIA. Things got delayed because of the John Durham investigation into the torture tape destruction. But last September, Judge Hellerstein deferred the decision on whether the CIA had deliberately ignored his earlier orders in destroying the torture tapes.

I find the facts before me are insufficient to justify a holding of civil contempt. 

[snip]

Here, I find that there has yet to be any such "clear and convincing evidence" of noncompliance on the CIA’s part.

He asked the DOJ to explain why Durham’s investigation prevented the production of a catalog listing:

1) A list identifying and describing each of the destroyed records;

2) A list of any summaries, transcripts, or memoranda regarding the records, and of any reconstruction of the records’ contents; and

3) Identification of any witnesses who may have viewed the videotapes or retained custody of the videotapes before their destruction.

The government was able to get another delay because of the Durham investigation, but the FOIA reponse we’re getting now is basically this long-awaited catalog, which Hellerstein will use to determine whether the CIA deliberately ignored his 2004 order in this FOIA case.

So the CIA has a couple of goals in its response to Judge Hellerstein’s orders. It wants to appear as cooperative as possible, lest Hellerstein believe that the CIA was and is continuing to cover something up. At the same time, the CIA wants to hide any evidence that it would have had reason to destroy the torture tapes to cover something up. Read more

Why Doesn’t the CIA’s Vaughn Index Match the CIA’s Vaughn Index?

Bear with me, because this is going to be weedy, even for me.

The CIA has produced two different Vaughn Index descriptions of four cables recording Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation: the cables from August 1, 2002 (page 1-2; page 24), August 7, 2002 (page 21; page 25), August 11, 2002 (page 12 or 14; page 26), and August 16, 2002 (page 23; page 27).

Basically, what happened is that the government produced a Vaughn Index for the first half of August 2002 back on May 1, but then got ordered to produce a Vaughn Index that covered a wider range of dates, which was released two days ago. The two Vaughn Indices both include these four dates (as well as the interrogation log dated August 4, 2002), which means we’ve got two versions of the index descriptions of the cable for those dates. To avoid confusing dates of cables with dates of indices, I’m going to call the first Vaughn Index–dated May 1, 2009–Vaughn A, and the second Vaughn Index–dated June 8, 2009–Vaughn B.

The series are worth comparing generally, but by comparing these same-day descriptions, we learn a few things.

Somebody (the FBI?) Left the Interrogation Site after August 6, 2002

Yesterday, I pointed out that Leon Panetta admitted that there were contractors on site whose identities could not be revealed because it’d be an unwarranted invasion of their privacy. That manifests itself as an Exemption b(6) for every single cable in Vaughn B.

Vaughn A makes different Exemption claims for the persons present. The Vaughn A August 1, 2002 description includes the same Exemption b(6) claimed in the Vaughn B August 1 description. But it also includes another person-based exemption:

Exemption b(7)(C) – This document contains the names and other personal information of law enforcement officials acting in their official duties. The disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and for which there is no public interest in the disclosure. Therefore the information is protected from disclosure by Exemption b(7)(C). [my emphasis; note this strikes me as a really bogus use of this exemption]

In other words, Vaughn A claims there were personnel involved in counterterrorism operations and claims there were law enforcement personnel on site on August 1, 2002.

But Vaughn A stops making both those exemption claims after August 6. It appears someone left the interrogation site after August 6. Given that the Index claims a law enforcement exemption, I wonder if this was an FBI agent, perhaps Ali Soufan’s partner (who was supposed to have left in June)?

Read more