Why were Bin Laden raid records Purged from Pentagon and sent to CIA?

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The nation’s top special operations commander ordered military files about  the Navy SEAL raid on Usama bin Laden’s hideout to be purged from Defense  Department computers and sent to the CIA, where they could be more easily  shielded from ever being made public.

The secret move, described briefly in a draft report by the Pentagon’s  inspector general, set off no alarms within the Obama administration even though  it appears to have sidestepped federal rules and perhaps also the Freedom of  Information Act

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.

“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 records transfer was part of an effort by McRaven to protect the names of  the personnel involved in the raid, according to the inspector general’s draft  report.

But secretly moving the records allowed the Pentagon to tell The Associated  Press that it couldn’t find any documents inside the Defense Department that AP  had requested more than two years ago, and could represent a new strategy for  the U.S. government to shield even its most sensitive activities from public  scrutiny.

“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.”

McRaven’s directive sent the only copies of the military’s records about its  daring raid to the CIA, which has special authority to prevent the release of  “operational files” in ways that can’t effectively be challenged in federal  court. The Defense Department can prevent the release of its own military files,  too, citing risks to national security. But that can be contested in court, and  a judge can compel the Pentagon to turn over non-sensitive portions of  records.

Under federal rules, transferring government records from one executive  agency to another must be approved in writing by the National Archives and  Records Administration. There are limited circumstances when prior approval is  not required, such as when the records are moved between two components of the  same executive department. The CIA and Special Operations Command are not part  of the same department.

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