Yet Again, CIA is Concealing Information Americans Should See

The logo of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is shown in the lobby of the CIA headquarters

Once again, the CIA is concealing information that Americans have a right to know, and once again President Obama should ensure its release.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is set to release a landmark report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. But Obama allowed the CIA to oversee redactions, and it predictably went to town with the black marker. According to committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the redactions “eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions.”

The CIA even redacted information already made public by a 2009 Armed Services Committee Report on detainee abuse within the military. Members of the committee are haggling with the CIA and the White House over the redactions. The President, and only the president, can break the stalemate.

As the official responsible for oversight of the system for classifying national security information during the Bush administration, I frequently did battle with the CIA over declassification. I found its negotiating posture to be consistent: start out with the most ridiculous position and eventually settle for one that is simply outrageous. My 40 years of experience in the world of government secrecy taught me that the CIA rarely if ever acts in good faith when it comes to transparency.

Rather than exploring what information can be responsibly declassified, the CIA depicts the release of information as the slipperiest of slopes that could lead to ill-defined dire consequences at some ill-defined point.

A retiring CIA representative to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel, which rules on appeals of classification decisions, told me that he was consistently surprised by the panel’s willingness to accept the CIA’s most extreme arguments for continued classification—arguments that he often did not..

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