Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bad news!

Just over two weeks ago I cited with praise the decision by the DOJ to declassify and release three internal agency memos from 2005 that, in the words of Michael Isikoff of Newsweek,
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.
Those memos were described as "ugly."

Unfortunately, I may have to take back that praise or at least put it in the refrigerator for a while, because Isikoff is now reporting that
[a] fierce internal battle within the White House over the disclosure of internal Justice Department interrogation memos is shaping up as a major test of the Obama administration's commitment to opening up government files about Bush-era counterterrorism policy. ...

U.S. intelligence officials, led by senior national-security aide John Brennan, [have] mounted an intense campaign to get the decision reversed, according to a senior administration official familiar with the debate. "Holy hell has broken loose over this," said the official....
Yes, that is the same John Brennan who flopped as nominee for the post of CIA director because he is, let's call it, soft on torture. He didn't go very far away, did he?
Brennan ... argued that release of the memos could embarrass foreign intelligence services who cooperated with the CIA, either by participating in overseas "extraordinary renditions" of high-level detainees or housing them in overseas "black site" prisons.
Which seems to me an argument in favor of the memos' release, but that's just not the way things work among "serious" people. At the same time, I wonder how serious they can be if they've never heard of the word "redact."

For the moment, Isikoff says, Brennan and CIA Director Leon Panetta have succeeded in
stall[ing] plans to declassify the memos even though White House counsel Gregory Craig had already signed off on Holder's recommendation that they should be disclosed, according to an official and another government source familiar with the debate. No final decision has been made, and it is likely Obama will have to resolve the matter....
This is the basic divide: If the memos are released, it will significantly increase the chances of there being some means of holding Bush administration officials "accountable" - I would prefer the term "liable" - for their crimes in the War on Terror(c)(reg.)(pat.pend.) by making available previously-classified evidence. If they are not released, it would seriously hamper any effort in that regard.

Based on Obama's record to date, which has reflected an extreme reluctance to investigate or even directly address (much less prosecute) the crimes of the Shrub gang, I don't have a lot of hope that he is going to come down on the correct side of this.

I could be wrong; as I said, I don't have a lot of hope but I didn't say I had no hope. But even if I'm not wrong, that may not be the end. Remember that this all came up as the result of on on-going suit filed by the ACLU. Even if Obama declines to willingly declassify the memos, the possibility remains that the court could order him to do so, which would considerably raise the stakes for an administration that aggressively touts its commitment to "transparency."

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