WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA does not give up its secrets easily. Under pressure from a Senate committee to declassify parts of a congressional report on harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists, the CIA is shadowed by its reluctance to open up about its operations and its past.
In recent years, CIA decision-makers have wrestled with Congress, archivists, journalists, former CIA employees and even an ex-CIA director over which secrets could be revealed. Most often, secrecy prevails. The CIA holds the upper hand, using its internal reviews of classified materials and a separate process to scan proposed books about intelligence practices to tightly guard what is known about its activities and its history.
The CIA has used its sweeping national security authority to prevent embarrassing or damaging disclosures while shaping its own public image.
"They're tightfisted by nature and the more they are pressed to disclose, the more they resist," said Steven Aftergood, who studies government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.
The CIA's own experts have begun a review of the Senate Intelligence Committee's 400-page summary and findings on the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques, according to government officials familiar with the process. CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency, with help from other agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Justice and State, is carrying out an "expeditious classification review" of the Senate materials. Boyd and others would not estimate when it will be completed.
In referring the committee's report to President Barack Obama earlier this month, the committee's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pointedly asked the White House and not the CIA to take the lead in declassifying the summary, which criticizes the agency for its heavy use of the simulated drowning technique called waterboarding and other abusive interrogation methods against al-Qaida suspects held in secret, agency-run prisons overseas.