As Benjamin Wittes and I have noted, the last few weeks of the Obama administration and the first months of the Trump administration generated some activity surrounding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on interrogation, with counsel for Guantanamo detainees filing motions requesting that the SSCI report be preserved in at least four cases. Moreover, after a back-and-forth with Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri’s habeas case, the government deposited a “complete and unredacted” copy of the report with the court on February 11th.
But on Friday, four Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “express … concern” over the handling of the SSCI report in Nashiri. Apparently, in complying with Judge Lamberth’s order to provide the report to the court for safekeeping, the Department of Justice may have given up its only copy of the document. The source of concern seems to be one line in the government’s notice of the deposit, which informs Judge Lamberth that “the Government deposited the electronic copy that had been previously delivered to the Department of Justice Office of Legislative Affairs.”
The senators are now concerned that “the Department has likely denied itself the opportunity to use the Study ‘to help make sure that this experience is never repeated’ and as a basis for ‘future guidelines and procedures,’ as was urged by the December 10, 2014 transmittal letter” of the report to DOJ. The letter requests that Attorney General Sessions either clarify that the Department does, in fact, retain a copy of the report or that he request an additional copy either from the SSCI or from another government entity that retains a copy. It also requests that Sessions “establish the [report] as an agency record pursuant to FOIA and as a federal record under the Federal Records Act” and distribute it as appropriate to government personnel.
The letter is available in full below:
Senate Democrats ask Sessions to replace DOJ's copy of the Senate Torture Report. DOJ apparently gave its only copy to DC federal court. pic.twitter.com/Xnkrd58Efr
— Michel Paradis (@MDParadis) March 10, 2017