Research Post: Is the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture a Federal or Congressional Record?

I&A Research Teams are groups of dedicated volunteers who monitor breaking news and delve into ongoing topics affecting archives and the archival profession. Under the leadership of the I&A Steering Committee, the Research Teams compile their findings into Research Posts for the I&A blog. Each Research Post offers a summary and coverage of an issue. This Research Post comes from On-Call Research Team #2, which is mobilized to investigate issues as they arise.

Please be aware that the sources cited have not been vetted and do not indicate an official stance of SAA or the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable.

Summary of the Issue

Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and Interrogation Program (Senate Report 113-288), also referred to in the media as the “Senate Torture Report” was sent to President Obama, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the CIA, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Director of the FBI, and the CIA Inspector General on December 10, 2014. This report was an extensive five year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects. It lays bare the extreme violence, severe tactics, and brutality against the suspects as well as the government’s dishonesty to cover that up.

Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy wrote to the U.S. Attorney General and the Director of the FBI on November 5, 2015 and expressed disappointment that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was citing a still pending FOIA case (ACLU v. CIA) as justification for not allowing Executive Branch officials to read the full 6,700 page report. They were also concerned that personnel at NARA said they would not respond to inquiries on whether the report constitutes a record under the Federal Records Act because the FOIA case was pending, based on guidance from the DOJ. On April 28, 2016, members of various open government, human rights, civil liberties, and media organizations wrote a letter to the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero. This letter justified their stance that Ferriero should use his statutory authority to determine that the report is indeed a federal document. Many in the general public are concerned that the report could disappear if it is not deemed a federal document and that it may thus never be made available. Developments on this issue include Richard Burr, who replaced Feinstein as Committee Chair, writing to agencies who received the report and requesting they return all copies back to the Senate. He also wrote to the White House and instructed them not to enter the report into the Executive Branch system of records, which was contrary to Feinstein’s instructions when the report was released. The ACLU filed an emergency motion in their FOIA suit and all agencies have committed to retaining their copies of the full report during the pending litigation. However, the CIA acknowledged that it destroyed its only copy of the report, “by mistake.”

bibliography of coverage of the issue:

January 21 2016 (updated) “Senate Torture Report – FOIA” American Civil Liberties Union

February 18, 2016 article “The CIA torture report belongs to the public” Al Jazeera America

February 29, 2016 interview “Is the torture report a public record? An interview with the National Security Archive’s Lauren Harper” Melville House Books

April 28, 2016 Letter to Archivist on Executive Branch copies of Senate torture report

May 2, 2016 article “Will the Senate Torture Report Disappear?” Bill of Rights Defense Committee

May 3, 2016 article “Feds Urged to Preserve ‘Torture Report'” Courthouse News Service

May 5, 2016 article “National Archives’ Refusal to Ensure Preservation of CIA Torture Report Alarms Rights Groups” AllGov

May 6, 2016 post “Archivist won’t Call ‘Torture Report’ a Permanent Record” Federation of American Scientists blog

May 13, 2016 article “Appeals Court Declines to Release Full ‘Senate Torture Report,” ABC News

May 13, 2016 article “American Public Is Not Entitled to See Full Senate Torture Report, Court Rules” Huffington Post

May 16, 2016 article “CIA Watchdog Accidentally Deleted Lengthy Torture Report” Government Executive

May 17, 2016 article “Will the CIA Disappear the Senate Torture Report?” Bill of Rights Defense Committee

March 17, 2016 article “Judges Consider Release of Full CIA Torture Report” U.S. News & World Report

May 17, 2016 article “Senate Report on CIA Torture is One Step Closer to Disappearing” World News Daily Information Clearing House

May 20, 2016 article “‘Urgent’ action needed to preserve CIA torture documents, groups warn” Yahoo News

May 20, 2016 article “Why Federal Agencies Must Still Preserve (and Should Finally Read) the SSCI Torture Report” Just Security

June 3, 2016 post “FOIA Ombudsman’s Departure Worrisome, Archivist Will Not Call Torture Report a Federal Record and More: FRINFORMSUM 5/12/2016” National Security Archive blog

The I&A Steering Committee would like to thank Rachel Seale for writing this post, and Steven Duckworth, Dave McAllister, Rachel Seale, and Alison Stankrauff for doing key research on the issue.

I&A On-Call Research Team #2 is:

Alison Stankrauff, Leader
Katherine Barbera
Anna Chen
Steven Duckworth
David McAllister
Rachel Seale

If you are aware of an issue that might benefit from a Research Post, please get in touch with us:

Identifying and Crushing Barriers, Women’s History, and Workplace Inclusion: The National Archives’ Women’s Affinity Group

The post below was first published on the Women Archivists Roundtable’s blog on June 16, 2016. In it, Elizabeth Dinschel, founder of the Women’s Affinity Group (WAG) at the National Archives and Records Administration, discusses some of the challenges women face in the workplace.

The country, or mostly women, are buzzing about the wage gap, but does the gap exist in fields dominated by women such as Museums, Archives, or Libraries? Maybe not in the way you think, but the gap exists. I founded the Women’s Affinity Group (WAG) at the National Archives and Records Administration to address some of the obvious barriers, highlight the important contributions women have made to history through our collections, and provide inclusive activities to help women who may be struggling in the workplace. It is worthy of note that the executives and senior level staff have been abundantly supportive of the Women’s Affinity Group and all affinity groups across NARA. In fact, the first people I discussed the affinity group with were Debra Wall, Deputy Archivist of the United States, and Maria Stanwich, Chief of Staff, who encouraged me to start the affinity group. I had that conversation with Maria and Deb in 2013, but WAG was not officially chartered until December 2015.

The National Archives uses a database called Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS) to collect and track all kinds of NARA data. Shortly after I started working for NARA, I was introduced to the wonders of PMRS. I am kind of a statistics geek, so I dug into the numbers and what I found was alarming. Number one – even though women made up more than half of the workforce (51% to be exact), we did not even make up half of the executive positions (27% to be exact). In fact, women stacked up at one pay level (the glass ceiling) and rapidly decline in pay grades after that. Why? I wish I knew. The pay grade where women stack up feeds into management, so there is not a pipeline issue. I know this is complicated by several factors, but no one could seem to place their finger on why this was happening, so NARA is working on a barrier analysis to identify the root causes.

Number two – women were leaving NARA and retention of female employees is 2-3% below male employees. On the issue of retention, most people assume, falsely, that women leave their jobs to start or tend to families. They are wrong. But for the group of women who do have children and return to the workforce, they may be faced with challenges where they are discriminated against and not protected by FMLA. The American Association of State and Local History just posted a blog about the experience of motherhood in small museums. Fortunately, federal employees do enjoy FMLA leave, but retention is a concern, of course. For the women we fear are leaving for lack of opportunity, WAG started working with Learning and Development to advertise career advancement trainings such as- resume writing, applying for jobs, building Individual Development Plans (IDP), etc. We are also committed to advertising leadership training opportunities and providing spaces for women to discuss the unique difficulties or challenges they face.

One of the issues women are faced with is the lack of historical recognition of the accomplishments of women. Since most of us are, in some way, public historians, this is a big blow to our professions. In an effort to remedy that, the Women’s Affinity Group will be revamping the women’s sections of the NARA webpages, hosting social media events like Wikipedia edit-a-thons (our social media team told me that 90% of Wikipedia contributors are male and they recognize there is a gender gap in contributions. Wikipedia knows it). WAG will be reaching out across the country to bring NARA’s records of the Suffrage Movement and the centennial of the 19th Amendment to as many people as possible as well. Fortunately we can help bring the story of women to the country through NARA’s rich collections.

Lastly, WAG is launching some activities across NARA to promote inclusion. Recently, we launched a quarterly book club where members of WAG, all genders, select a book and then we hold a discussion with Debra Wall, the Deputy Archivist of the United States. WAG members are encouraged to start clubs at their respective sites and discuss the book on our employee pages. Our first book selection was, Wendy McClure, The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of the Little House on the Prairie. We have discussed clothing swaps and mentorships, but everything is in its infancy.

We know the mountain is steep and things will not change overnight, but we will encourage our colleagues to keep applying for management positions, take advantage of professional development opportunities, and to lean on each other because it is not just about “leaning in.” After all, Madeleine Albright said, “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” so we will make sure we help each other take credit for our work and ideas and we will always take our seat at the table.

Elizabeth Dinschel is a historian and the founder and Chair of the Women’s Affinity Group for the National Archives and Records Administration. She is currently the Education Specialist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. Formerly, she was the Oral History and Education Coordinator for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Museum. All views expressed in this blog post are that of Elizabeth Dinschel and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Archives and Records Administration or the United States Government.