Sunday, March 22, 2009

And the floodgates open

Over objections from the U.S. intelligence community, the White House is moving to declassify—and publicly release—three internal memos that will lay out, for the first time, details of the "enhanced" interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration for use against "high value" Qaeda detainees. The memos, written by Justice Department lawyers in May 2005, provide the legal rationale for waterboarding, head slapping and other rough tactics used by the CIA. One senior Obama official, who like others interviewed for this story requested anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, said the memos were "ugly" and could embarrass the CIA. Other officials predicted they would fuel demands for a "truth commission" on torture.

Because of an executive order signed by President Obama on Jan. 22 banning such aggressive tactics, deputies to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. concluded there was no longer any reason to keep the interrogation memos classified. But current and former intel officials pushed back, arguing that any public release might still compromise "sources and methods." According to the administration official, ex-CIA director Michael Hayden was "furious" about the prospect of disclosure and tried to intervene directly with Obama officials. But the White House has sided with Holder. Faced with a court deadline in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit regarding the memos filed by the ACLU, Justice lawyers asked for a two-week extension "because the memoranda are being reviewed for possible release." (White House, Justice and CIA spokesmen all declined to comment.)

3 comments:

Mahakal / מהכאל said...

The buried lede here may be that this was a FOIA request by the ACLU. So thanks them, and thanks Barack Obama for respecting FOIA (and the laws and constitution generally).

Steve Bates said...

If there is any faint glimmer of hope that our country will one day rejoin the community of civilized nations, the ACLU is an absolutely essential element of that hope.

ellroon said...

Thank God for the ACLU. Amen.