WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA asked a federal judge Thursday in Washington for more time to declassify its still-secret response to a Senate intelligence report on harsh interrogation techniques used on terror detainees as well as a separate review ordered by former agency director Leon Panetta.
Justice Department lawyers representing the intelligence agency filed a motion urging U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg to lift a May 22 deadline in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking copies of the two classified reports.
Already in the process of declassifying a 500-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the harsh techniques, the CIA said it will need more time to similarly review the other two documents. President Barack Obama said in April that he wanted the report made public quickly.
But government lawyers said in their motion only that the CIA would be able to provide a timetable by June 20 and hoped to have the materials available at some point this summer.
Citing legal and national security complexities already surrounding the review of the Senate report, government lawyers said the CIA "does not yet have a firm date by which it can complete the processing of the CIA response and the so-called Panetta report, although it hopes the declassification review and accompanying processing of those documents can be completed this summer."
Hina Shamsi, the ACLU's lead lawyer on the case, criticized the government's offer on timing as too vague.
"We had wanted something more specific than their statement that the review would be completed this summer, especially given that the agency acknowledges the president expressed a commitment to declassify expeditiously."
The ACLU sued the CIA last November under the Freedom of Information Act, demanding release of the Senate committee's full 6,000-page report, which still remains secret, as well as CIA Director John Brennan's secret rebuttal of that report, given to the Senate committee in 2013. As part of the lawsuit, the ACLU also asked for an earlier CIA review of harsh interrogation ordered by Panetta, which reportedly concurs with the Senate's report.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate committee and has pressed for a speedy declassification of the report on the CIA's oversight of "enhanced" interrogations in agency-run prisons overseas, said this week she was told by the White House that the CIA's review would not be ready before July. Feinstein's comments were first reported by NPR.
Lawyers for the CIA said the agency's delivery of the two agency reports will depend in part on how quickly the Senate report is declassified, a process that will likely involve several CIA units as well as the involvement of other agencies. Justice lawyers cited "the fluid nature of this process, aspects of which are beyond the CIA's control."
Even when that is finished, the lawyers said, more time will be necessary "for implementation of security measures to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and facilities overseas" — a reference to the possibility of protests and violence abroad ignited by the documents' details on the abusive treatment of detainees.