Editorial: CIA ‘Accident’ Is Not Believable

The “accidental” destruction of documents by the CIA’s inspector general’s office is unacceptable

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is shrouded in secrets, and its actions often arise suspicions. That is why it is so difficult to accept that the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) ‒ in charge of overseeing the CIA’s internal operations ‒ made a “mistake” when it destroyed documents detailing the use of torture under the George W. Bush Administration.

A summary of the document was made public in December 2014, and it explained that the “enhanced interrogation” techniques ‒ the term used by the administration for torture ‒ were an inefficient tool to obtain useful intelligence, were much more brutal than previously thought, and also that the CIA was providing inadequate information. The 6,700-page report written for the Senate ‒ which contained the arguments supporting the conclusions ‒ is the document that has been destroyed.

The incident was described as an “inadvertent error” by the CIA’s inspector general. The official explanation says that personnel at the inspector general’s office first erased the file from the computer containing the report, and then destroyed the drive containing the document along with thousands of secret CIA files regarding torture in clandestine prisons located in several countries in the so-called “black ops.” The agency says that there is an unopened drive containing the document in the agency’s safe.

This is a worrisome fact, as the inspector general is precisely in charge of supervising the CIA’s workings and actions independently. The office was created in 1989 to act as the eyes of civil society over the department carrying out the U.S.’ intelligence work abroad. It reports to Congress and the Department of Justice directly. The disappearance of these documents raises serious doubts over the OIG and its operations.

The use of torture by the Bush-Cheney Administration gained renewed significance in April, when a group of people who were tortured sued two psychiatrists who supervised their “enhanced interrogations.” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has promised to increase the use of torture if elected.

Civilian control over the CIA is very important. This incident confirms that, while this is no easy task, the espionage agency cannot be allowed to obstruct this oversight.