White House’s Censorship of Senate Report on CIA Torture Continues US Indignity Toward Victims

United States senators involved in producing a more than 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s rendition, detention and interrogation program are upset with significant redactions the White House made to the report. One of the key issues is that the White House censored “pseudonyms” from the report used to protect covert CIA agents and foreign countries, according to a report from McClatchy Newspapers.

McClatchy journalists Jonathan Landay and Michael Doyle have diligently covered almost every development in the Senate’s struggle to get part of the report released. This latest episode exemplifies the lengths to which President Barack Obama’s administration has been willing to go to protect the CIA when the agency’s leadership demand agents be shielded from scrutiny.

From the report:

Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told McClatchy on Monday that the blackouts —officially known as redactions— were made to pseudonyms used for both covert CIA officers and foreign countries.

“No covert CIA personnel or foreign countries are named in the report,” he said. “Only pseudonyms were used, precisely to protect this kind of information. Those pseudonyms were redacted (by the administration).”

But, according to a “person familiar with the issue” (no additional identifying details are given in the story), “All of the pseudonyms were excised from the version of the executive summary that the White House returned to the committee on Friday.”

New Mexico Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich, one of a few senators who has been outspoken on the need for this report to be released to the public, protested in a released statement, “Redactions are supposed to remove names or anything that could compromise sources and methods, not to undermine the source material so that it is impossible to understand. Try reading a novel with 15 percent of the words blacked out — it can’t be done properly.”

White House’s Censorship of Senate Report on CIA Torture Continues US Indignity Toward Victims

Government photo and in the public domain

United States senators involved in producing a more than 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s rendition, detention and interrogation program are upset with significant redactions the White House made to the report. One of the key issues is that the White House censored “pseudonyms” from the report used to protect covert CIA agents and foreign countries, according to a report from McClatchy Newspapers.

McClatchy journalists Jonathan Landay and Michael Doyle have diligently covered almost every development in the Senate’s struggle to get part of the report released. This latest episode exemplifies the lengths to which President Barack Obama’s administration has been willing to go to protect the CIA when the agency’s leadership demand agents be shielded from scrutiny.

From the report:

Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told McClatchy on Monday that the blackouts —officially known as redactions— were made to pseudonyms used for both covert CIA officers and foreign countries.

“No covert CIA personnel or foreign countries are named in the report,” he said. “Only pseudonyms were used, precisely to protect this kind of information. Those pseudonyms were redacted (by the administration).”

But, according to a “person familiar with the issue” (no additional identifying details are given in the story), “All of the pseudonyms were excised from the version of the executive summary that the White House returned to the committee on Friday.”

New Mexico Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich, one of a few senators who has been outspoken on the need for this report to be released to the public, protested in a released statement, “Redactions are supposed to remove names or anything that could compromise sources and methods, not to undermine the source material so that it is impossible to understand. Try reading a novel with 15 percent of the words blacked out — it can’t be done properly.”

This is the mosaic theory on steroids. The CIA and White House may think that the pseudonym, by itself, could not lead to an agent’s identity or a foreign country’s name being uncovered, but the information associated is enough for an investigative journalist or human rights attorney to use information already in the public domain to reveal who the persons or countries implicated actually are. So, a step the Senate intelligence committee took to ensure this kind of a problem would not occur happened anyway because the White House agreed with the CIA and decided to redact nouns from numerous sentences in the report.

The summary is 480 pages. If fifteen percent was redacted, as Heinrich suggested, about 72 pages worth of material was censored from the summary.

Jason Leopold previously reported for VICE News that “two officials with access to the declassified executive summary” had claimed “some of the redactions allegedly pertain to the manner in which the detainees were held captive, and to certain torture techniques that were not among the 10 ‘approved’ methods contained in a Justice Department legal memo commonly referred to as the ‘torture memo.'” Essentially, the methods, which had not yet been revealed, were “improvised,” and were in the report to “underscore the ‘cruelty’ of the program.”

Other redactions involve “the origins of the program and the intelligence the CIA collected through the use of torture” and footnotes, which the CIA believes contained “too many ‘specific’ details about the CIA’s operational files,” including clues related to how foreign governments “allowed the CIA to operate its torture program in their countries.”

But such censorship violates the Convention Against Torture, which the US ratified in 1994. The Obama administration has an obligation to appropriately investigate—and also criminally prosecute—those responsible for torture.
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