WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers and rights groups criticized the Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday for seeking the return of copies of a report on CIA treatment of detainees after 9/11, saying he is trying to “erase history” by making it harder for the public to ever see the classified document.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said federal courts have ruled the report is a congressional document and asked for copies held by intelligence bodies and other executive branch agencies to be returned. If the report remained in the hands of executive branch officials, it would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Congressional materials are not.

The CIA and the agency’s inspector general’s office, as well as the national intelligence director’s office, have returned their copies. The FBI and the State, Justice and Defense departments also have copies of the 6,770-page classified report.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a former Democratic chairman of the committee, called Burr’s move was “alarming and concerning.”

“No senator – chairman or not – has the authority to erase history. I believe that is the intent of the chairman,” she said.

The so-called “torture report” has a long history.

The Senate intelligence committee spent years investigating the CIA’s detention and harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists captured by the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.

In December 2014, the committee published a declassified summary of the report. The full report remained classified, but it was sent to several agencies. Democrats and Republicans fought over the contents.

In 2015, Burr asked government agencies under the Obama administration to send report copies back. They didn’t.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the CIA for the entire classified report, but didn’t get it.

“After more than two years of litigation, the federal courts have ruled that the Senate intelligence committee’s 2014 full report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program is a congressional document,” Burr said in a statement. “I have directed my staff to retrieve copies of the congressional study that remain with the executive branch agencies and, as the committee does with all classified and compartmented information, will enact the necessary measures to protect the sensitive sources and methods contained within the report.”

There are copies, however, that might not be returned.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Feinstein in a written response to questions that he would not return the Justice Department’s copy of the report to the Senate.

Katherine Hawkins, senior counsel at the Constitution Project, said another copy is included in Obama’s presidential papers, which are being handled by the National Archives. Getting that declassified could take years.

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