The records of the Navy SEAL raid on the compound occupied by Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan are being purged from Defense Department records, and placed in control of the CIA to keep them secret.
The Pentagon’s inspector general released a report that the nation’s top special operations commander ordered the action. There are questions whether or not the transfer and securing of documents violated federal laws and the Freedom of Information Act.
The action was undertaken by Admiral William McRaven, although his name had been removed from the final report.
The CIA claims that the records belong to them. The operation was under the auspices of Leon Panetta, who was the director of the CIA at the time. He later became Secretary of Defense. They also state that the Navy Seals were ‘on loan’ to the CIA, who executed the mission.
“Documents related to the raid were handled in a manner consistent with the fact that the operation was conducted under the direction of the CIA director,” agency spokesman Preston Golson said in an emailed statement. “Records of a CIA operation such as the (bin Laden) raid, which were created during the conduct of the operation by persons acting under the authority of the CIA Director, are CIA records.”
Golson said it is “absolutely false” that records were moved to the CIA to avoid the legal requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.
The AP, who had asked for the records two years ago, suspects that this is a new strategy to retain government secrecy, and prevent the American people from knowing facts.
“Welcome to the shell game in place of open government,” said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private research institute at George Washington University. “Guess which shell the records are under. If you guess the right shell, we might show them to you. It’s ridiculous.”
Transfer of records from one agency to another must be approved in writing by the National Archives and Records Administration. There is no record of a request being submitted by the CIA.
Also, the Federal Records Act would not permit agencies “to purge records just on a whim,” said Dan Metcalfe, who oversaw the U.S. government’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act as former director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy. “I don’t think there’s an exception allowing an agency to say, ‘Well, we didn’t destroy it. We just deleted it here after transmitting it over there.’ High-level officials ought to know better.”
McRaven said that there was concern that the identities of the Navy SEALS involved in the raid might be revealed. He also wanted to secure photographs taken during the operation.
“This effort included purging the combatant command’s systems of all records related to the operation and providing these records to another government agency,” according to the draft report. The sentence was dropped from the report’s final version.
Government officials confirmed that the term ‘another government agency’ refers to the CIA.
Questions to all government agencies that may have been responsible for oversight of the transfer of information were answered with bureaucratic responses. Rules from each agency’s operational requirements were recited to AP.
The lack of transparency by our federal government is disturbing. If its actions are legal, and constitutional, why is there fear of revealing its operations to the American people?
As we discover more secretive and unlawful action by our nation’s leaders, individuals such as Edward Snowden are garnering more support from the American people, and people all over the world.
The American people may never have the opportunity to see the records of Osama bin Laden’s last minutes. They will be kept secret, locked in the CIA vault.
Alfred James reporting