Obama's Decision Point Made
I was going to update the last post, but this is enough information to warrant a new one. The New York Times reports that the President will release the torture memos.
After a tense internal debate, the Obama administration this afternoon will make public a number of detailed memos describing the harsh interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency against al Qaeda suspects in secret overseas prisons.
The interrogation methods were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and today’s release will be the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the interrogation program that some senior Obama administration officials have said used illegal torture.
This is great, but there isn't enough information here to explain whether key elements of the memos would be redacted. The Wall Street Journal says:
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is expected to release some operational details of a Central Intelligence Agency interrogation program and its legal rationale, while seeking to keep secret the names of detainees and the way techniques were applied to particular prisoners, two officials familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
An announcement is expected Thursday on the release of memorandums in which Department of Justice lawyers gave legal guidance on CIA interrogations. During a fierce debate, CIA officials have argued for keeping sensitive information secret, while Attorney General Eric Holder and other Obama administration lawyers have favored a full release.
Administration lawyers on Wednesday were still deliberating what portions of three memos would be released. The two officials said the administration plans to propose redacting parts of the memos. In addition to the prisoner names, certain operational details of interrogations are expected to stay secret, they said.
As is typical for Obama, he split the difference in the debate and went right down the middle. He will release the memos with some operational details, but will redact others as well as "the way techniques were applied to particular prisoners."
This is kind of silly. We have a Red Cross report detailing how these techniques were applied to particular prisoners. And the operational details in the memos do not describe intelligence operations, but what the OLC considered legal for use on prisoners. The overall effect would be to shield the framers of these opinions and their superiors from the actions themselves.
We'll have to wait and see just what is redacted. But this is basically a split-the-difference approach.
The ACLU shot back at the report. Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, said:
“The new Justice Department should turn over unredacted versions of these memos, not blacked out versions that cover up critical information. The information in these memos is vital to the historical record and to informing the public about what actions were carried out in its name. The release of the memos is also crucial to holding officials accountable for authorizing torture. Withholding this information would be completely inconsistent with the Obama administration’s promise of transparency and its commitment to turn the page on the abuses of the last eight years.”
If the administration attempts to redact the memos instead of handing them over to the ACLU unredacted, it will reportedly need a judge’s approval.
...Andrea Mitchell had former CIA Director and NSA head Michael Hayden (who, shockingly, is now with something called "The Chertoff Group") on, and he basically said that the American people don't have the right to know what their government does in their name, and thus the memos shouldn't be released at all. Then, on the NSA "overcollection" case, he maintained that "the NSA follows the law" and just like journalists, they can't be right 100% of the time and they do the best they can.
Just so you know what a defense of evil sounds like. The interview was amazing.