Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

March 13, 2014

The Senate, CIA at war

(Continued)

As investigators waded though the documents, some of the information that had been initially provided by the CIA started to disappear from the computer network. When asked about the unauthorized removal, the CIA blamed contractors, and then said the order had come from the White House. In 2010, Feinstein had to get the White House counsel to resolve the matter and order the CIA to return the missing documents, which it did.

Not long after, documents started going missing again. This batch of ghost papers would come to be known as the “Panetta review,” referring to Leon Panetta, the former CIA director. They represented an internal summary of what had been provided to the intelligence committee. “What was unique and interesting about the internal documents was not their classification level, but rather their analysis and acknowledgment of significant CIA wrongdoing,” said Feinstein.

The power of these Panetta documents and the fact that they had gone missing didn’t become apparent until the Senate put together its final report in 2012, six years after first learning about the program and 10 years after the program had started. The CIA responded to the 6,300-page Senate report with a 122-page rebuttal in June 2013. What surprised investigators was that the agency’s rebuttal contradicted the conclusions that had been in the Panetta documents. “Some of these important parts [of the Senate report] that the CIA now dispute … are clearly acknowledged in the CIA’s own internal Panetta review,” said Feinstein. “How can the CIA’s official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own internal review?”

The contradiction suggests that the CIA was trying to conceal its wrongdoing when it removed the Panetta documents from the network investigators were using. Fortunately for Senate investigators they had printed out the Panetta review before it disappeared. When they saw the discrepancy between what had been written internally and what was being said in public, they decided to remove the physical copies from the CIA in case someone there tried to destroy them as they had previous evidence.

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