By Spencer Ackerman
It was 11pm, in the chill of January, but Daniel Jones needed a run around the Capitol.
During the winter of early 2014 Jones’s only chance for serenity was these late hours. The CIA was demanding his boss, Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, fire him. Feinstein’s Republican colleagues, once supportive of Jones, were demanding he testify.
Testimony was treacherous. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island senator and former federal prosecutor, warned Jones that asserting his rights against self-incrimination or seeking a lawyer’s counsel could give committee Republicans a political lever against his highly controversial work. The CIA would soon formally insist that the US justice department actually prosecute Jones, the Senate staffer who had devoted over six years of his life to investigating the CIA’s infamous post-9/11 torture program.
Jones, a former FBI counter-terrorism analyst, wanted to testify. The CIA had pushed him past the point where he could back down. Its lies, documented in a 6,700-page secret report which Jones was constantly rewriting that winter, were compounding: to Congress, to Barack Obama, to George W Bush, to the press, to the public. The lies were not random misstatements. They were directional, in the service of covering up the brutality of what it did to at least 119 terrorist suspects – some clearly innocent – it held in a global network of secret prisons. Jones was on the verge of exposing the coverup. As he saw it, the personalized intensity of the CIA’s attacks on him, and the unprecedented steps they were taking, validated the account he had compiled after combing through over 6m classified CIA documents.
Jones put his Bose earbuds in, cued up a Tragically Hip record, and ran.
It couldn’t be that long of a lap, just enough to clear his head and work the frustrations out. Jones would need to be back in the Senate intelligence committee’s secured, classified offices very soon. Each day brought a new calculation: it might be the last that the committee had access to its own classified report. The CIA had gone “into war mode” with its congressional overseers, Jones told the Guardian. There was no choice but to work deeply into the night, leaving Capitol Hill at 3 or 4 in the morning, with breaks only for a run, and then back to work by 8 or 9 to repeat the cycle.
Less than a year had passed since the CIA had communicated to the Senate that its exhaustive torture report, drawn from millions of the agency’s own documents, was significantly incorrect. Less than a year had passed since Jones, unbeknownst to the CIA, had locked in a committee safe crucial portions of one such record, called the Panetta Review, in which the CIA had come to the same conclusions about torture as Jones had. But now the agency was letting the committee know it was not playing around – and that it was coming for Jones himself.
Picture: user:Duffman (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons