David S. Ferriero
Archivist of the United States
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20408
Dear Mr. Ferriero:
As organizations concerned with transparency and accountability, we are writing to support the re-opening of the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) investigation into the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) destruction of federal records showing the torture of detainees at CIA black sites, and to thank you for your leadership on this issue.
By refusing to give the CIA a free pass, NARA proclaims its role not only as the final repository for our nation’s historical documents, but also as an active curator of federal records. When records are destroyed because they would reveal embarrassing information or illegal activities, the public is denied the right to understand and debate what the federal government is doing in its name, and hold the government accountable for its actions. Furthermore, the destruction of records makes it impossible for historians to someday write the authoritative history of our nation.
The destruction of records in this particular case is especially abhorrent. The records are videotapes showing the interrogations, including waterboarding, of two 'high value' detainees. The CIA’s actions destroyed evidence that is crucial to ensuring that torture victims have a fair day in court.
We are profoundly disappointed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to bring any criminal charges over this blatant violation of the Federal Records Act and destruction of evidence. Failing to enforce the law of the land in this instance sends a message of impunity to agencies that decide to destroy records containing evidence of illegality, mismanagement, corruption, or even fairly benign mistakes. This decision stands in stark contrast to the President’s January 21 memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) directing Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies that the government "not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears." For these reasons, we hope DOJ will fully support your investigation and act on your conclusions.
Thank you, again, for your leadership on this issue.
American Association of Law Libraries
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Arizona First Amendment Coalition
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
The Center for Media and Democracy
The Center for Victims of Torture
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Defending Dissent Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Feminists for Free Expression
Fund for Constitutional Government
Government Accountability Project (GAP)
Muslimah Writers Alliance
National Coalition Against Censorship
No More Guantanamos
Northern California Association of Law Libraries
PEN American Center
Progressive Librarians Guild
Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of American Archivists
Society of Professional Journalists
US Bill of Rights Foundation
Utah Foundation for Open Government