Daniel Jones, the man at the center of landmark Senate report, goes public for the first time about the investigation that led to the CIA spying on him.
The man at the center of the US Senate’s landmark investigation of the CIA torture program has gone public for the first time about an experience that led to the CIA spying on him as part of what he calls a “failed coverup”.
For six years, Daniel Jones was the chief investigator for the Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry into CIA detentions and interrogations carried out in the post-9/11 Bush era. Jones and his team turned 6.3m pages of internal CIA documents into a scathing study which concluded that torture was ineffective and that the CIA had lied about it to two presidents, Congress and the US public.
But before Jones’s investigation was released in December 2014, the CIA searched through Senate files on a shared, firewalled network that had been set up by the agency for Jones and his team to securely receive classified documents.
The CIA accessed Jones’s work and even reconstructed his emails, sparking an unprecedented clash between the agency and its legislative overseers on Capitol Hill.
Inside the fight to reveal the CIA’s torture secrets
Jones has broken his silence in an extensive series of interviews with the Guardian, expressing dissatisfaction with what he called a lack of accountability for torture at the CIA. He also says the agency, under the leadership of John Brennan was abetted in trying to silence criticism by Barack Obama, the president who banned torture as one of the first acts of his tenure.
“People who played a significant role in this program, who are in the report, continue to play significant roles in sensitive programs at the agency,” said Jones, a former FBI counter-terrorism analyst.
“To me, it’s a huge lost opportunity. Here’s an administration that came in and did all the right things within a few days, shutting down the program … We were just never given a fair airing. No one from the White House would be briefed by us. They were briefed by the CIA.”
Guardian US has re-investigated the six-year saga of the torture inquiry, whose work was eventually published in a 525-page summary. The examination of events between 2008 and 2014 relies upon interviews with people involved and declassified documents concerning both the use of torture and the network breach, which committee member Senator Ron Wyden flatly calls “spying on our staff”.
The Guardian’s findings, to be published in three installments starting today, include:
- How Jones was so afraid the CIA would destroy important evidence, that he covertly removed from a CIA location a classified document, later described as a “smoking gun” by a senator on the committee ;
- A decision that left the investigation of extradjudicial transfers of terror suspects into the hands of foreign intelligence services practically lost to history;
- One of Obama’s most senior aides insisted the Senate obscure a finding that some CIA interrogators who operated at black sites around the world after 9/11 had been accused of domestic abuse and even sexual assault;
- Senators were prepared to suppress the report amid national security concerns, until intelligence chief James Clapper provided the committee with a “farce” of an analysis predicting that its publication would lead to chaos and violence around the world.
Asked about the Senate-CIA spying episode, agency spokesman Ryan Trapani said: “CIA considered this a very serious matter and believed it was important to get to the bottom of what happened.”
“What the president has made abundantly clear is that some of the techniques described in the committee’s report were inconsistent with our values as a nation, which is why one of his first acts in office was to sign an executive order that brought an end to the program and prohibited the use of harsh interrogation techniques,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
The new revelations about torture and the Senate inquiry come at a time when the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, has pledged to require the CIA to perform “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” on terrorism suspects.
As the Obama administration’s various cabinet agencies have not even opened the full 6,700-page classified version of the report, critics fear that a government unwilling to grapple with the torture program will at some point return to it.
“The deeper, more endemic problem lies in a CIA, assisted by a White House, that continues to try to cover up the truth. I worry that an agency that has yet to acknowledge these mistakes could continue to make them under a new administration,” said Mark Udall, a former Democratic senator on the committee.
Jones, now a consultant in Washington for the Daschle Group and his own Penn Quarter Group, said that one of the report’s shocking findings was that the CIA misled not just George W Bush on torture, but also Obama.
“This is John Brennan’s CIA, Obama’s CIA,” he said. “They’re providing inaccurate information to the president of the United States in the present day.”
By Spencer Ackerman