In May of 2010, as the documents continued to stream in, some of the committee staffers realized documents they had looked at earlier had disappeared. As it turned out, in two separate incidents, CIA employees had accessed the network without committee approval and had deleted approximately 920 documents from the network’s storage.
Sen. Feinstein said that “CIA staff first denied they had removed the documents, then they blamed IT support personnel and then said removal of the documents was ordered by the White House.” Feinstein went to White House counsel about the removal, and the complaint was rapidly escalated. The CIA apologized for the removal and gave assurances that it wouldn’t happen again.
But it would happen again, later in 2010, according to Feinstein, after the discovery of draft documents within the shared data that were part of an internal review ordered by Leon Panetta. The so-called Panetta review documents were actually summaries of the same documents that made up the majority of what the committee staff was reviewing for its report, but they included “analysis and acknowledgement of signs of wrongdoing,” Feinstein said.
The documents were marked as “deliberative” and “privileged”—meaning that they were intended not to be shared with the Senate under claims of executive privilege. But since they had been shared as part of the data dump, Feinstein said, there was no legal reason for the staff to not review the documents.
It is not known whether the CIA inadvertently shared the documents that somehow made it through the contractor’s screening process or if they were deliberately added to the data dump by the CIA or possibly by an internal whistleblower. Regardless, shortly after the draft documents were discovered, they started disappearing from the document store—so staffers copied the ones that remained to their local hard drives and printed out copies to preserve them. Staffers also made their own redacted copies of the documents—removing CIA non-executive employee names and locations, as the CIA would have done with other documents—and transported them back to the Hart SCIF for safekeeping.