Justice Dept. Seeks More Time to Review Report on Interrogations

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 3, 2009

The Justice Department asked a federal court yesterday for two more months to review an internal CIA report on the agency's interrogation program before releasing a new version of the document to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued to make it public.

The May 2004 report, which was prepared by the agency's inspector general and runs to more than 200 pages, provides a "comprehensive summary and review" of the agency's program, according to a Justice Department letter filed yesterday in federal court in New York.

The Washington Post reported last month that the prospect of revealing details of the interrogation program has alarmed some CIA officials, who fear damage to counterterrorism operations and to cooperation with other intelligence agencies. The officials are pressing for the report to be heavily redacted, as it was when a version was released last year.

The Justice Department letter said the CIA report could be vetted only after the department reviews 318 other documents that the ACLU is also seeking, including CIA cables and memos.

"Given the sensitivity of the information at issue, and the need for coordination among multiple components of the government, the review of the remanded documents is a time-consuming and labor-intensive exercise," the letter said. "We have concluded that we must review all of the documents together, and that the review will take until August 31, 2009, as we originally requested."

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein yesterday, the ACLU challenged any further delay in the document's release, which has been put off several times.

"Plaintiffs strenuously object to what amounts to the government's request for a fourth extension of its deadline to reprocess the CIA's Office of the Inspector General's Special Review Report," the ACLU's letter said.

The broad outlines of the CIA's interrogation program have already been made public, most recently through the Obama administration's release of memos by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel authorizing the CIA to employ harsh techniques, and earlier, through the leak of a 2005 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

But the inspector general's report, if unexpurgated, is likely to contain previously unknown details. It was based on more than a year of investigation, involving more than 100 interviews and a review of 92 interrogation videotapes -- which the CIA later said it had destroyed -- as well as thousands of internal CIA e-mails and other documents. Investigators also traveled to secret CIA prisons and witnessed interrogations firsthand, the only outside observers allowed into detention sites, officials said.

Concerns raised in the report about the legality of aspects of the program led to a suspension for several months until the Justice Department issued new memos sanctioning harsh interrogation techniques.

Staff writer Carrie Johnson and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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