An Associated Press report has revealed that Admiral William McRaven recently ordered all military files pertaining to the Navy SEAL raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden be moved to the CIA. Once in the hands of the agency, it is unlikely any future access will be permitted to the records via Freedom of Information Act requests, and thus preventing any new public revelations regarding the raid.
My Way News carried the story, which described the file removal as a “secret move” that “set off no alarms within the Obama administration,” despite the move toward transparency Obama made a precept of his 2008 presidential bid, along with federal rules and laws pertaining to FOIA that may now have been violated. McRaven’s spokesman denied further comment on the issue, after acknowledgement of the decision had been removed from an inspector general’s report:
An acknowledgement by Adm. William McRaven of his actions was quietly removed from the final version of an inspector general’s report published weeks ago. A spokesman for the admiral declined to comment. The CIA, noting that the bin Laden mission was overseen by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta before he became defense secretary, said that the SEALs were effectively assigned to work temporarily for the CIA, which has presidential authority to conduct covert operations.
An agency spokesman, Preston Golson, denied that there was any wrongdoing, or that the move had been intended to prevent FOIA access to information regarding the bin Laden raid, calling such allegations “absolutely false.”
Rumors and speculation surrounding the official story of bin Laden’s death have flourished, including conspiracy theories that involved his capture and detainment, despite official news sources maintaining that he had been killed in the raid that occurred last year.
As a federal agency, the CIA does maintain authority to prevent the dissemination of what are deemed “operational files,” and furthermore, can do so in ways that will not withstand federal court challenge. However, the actual transfer of files to an agency like the CIA requires approval from both the Records Administration and the National Archives. According to the AP report, “The Archives was not aware of any request from the U.S. Special Operations Command to transfer its records to the CIA,” and that, “it was the Archives’ understanding that the military records belonged to the CIA, so transferring them wouldn’t have required permission under U.S. rules.”
Whatever may have led officials with the National Archives to mistake these for files that were already maintained under the CIA is unclear. However, in general terms, this appears to represent a clear instance where government files had been moved from the handling of one agency to another, without proper permission to do so, and for the obvious intention of maintaining secrecy with regard to the information those files contained.
Public Domain Image (above) is a work of the U.S. Government, via Wikimedia Commons