That Mighty Liberal Blog Power Made Manifest
A couple weeks ago, the Justice Department had planned to release a set of internal DoJ memos that, perhaps more than anything previously released, describe in great detail the exact types of interrogation procedures that were approved for use in secret CIA prisons. We know what was done, of course, but the memos would further provide evidence to the authorization and direction of torture at the highest levels. Some inside the White House would rather not see that happen.
As reported by NEWSWEEK, the White House last month had accepted a recommendation from Attorney General Eric Holder to declassify and publicly release three 2005 memos that graphically describe harsh interrogation techniques approved for the CIA to use against Al Qaeda suspects. But after the story, U.S. intelligence officials, led by senior national-security aide John Brennan, 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, who asked not to be identified because of political sensitivities [...]
Brennan, who now oversees intelligence issues at the National Security Council, 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.
Brennan succeeded in persuading CIA Director Leon Panetta to become "engaged" in his efforts to block release, according to the senior official. Their joint arguments stalled 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, according to the sources who spoke to NEWSWEEK.
Brennan, Brennan, hmm, I can't put my finger on where I've heard that name... oh, wait, he was the guy who "liberal bloggers" supposedly defeated for the post of CIA Director. Here was part of his withdrawal letter:
"It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration such as the pre-emptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include waterboarding," he wrote. "It is with profound regret that I respectfully ask that my name be withdrawn from consideration for a position within the intelligence community. The challenges ahead of our nation are too daunting, and the role of the CIA too critical, for there to be any distraction from the vital work that lays ahead," Brennan wrote.
Yes, and those credentials as a "strong opponent" are certainly showing now. And it's fantastic that he's not proving a "distraction" in his role as a national security aide, by, say, pitching a fit and using institutional allies to undermine Justice Department directives.
Forget about Brennan's specific views, which are problematic enough. Clearly he's protecting his friends in the intelligence community and sparing them the embarrassment of having to face up to their actions, to say nothing of the criminal liability. The cover story that Brennan wants to protect foreign intelligence services who cooperated with the CIA is ridiculous, as Hilzoy notes:
Fear of embarrassing countries who cooperated with us cannot possibly be the reason for not releasing the memos. The solution is too simple: just redact their names and any identifying details. Are we supposed to believe that this has not occurred to Panetta or Holder? Or that there is some identifying detail that is so thoroughly intertwined with the legal arguments that it cannot possibly be edited out?
Give me a break.
If foreign countries are so embarrassed by participating in torture, naming and shaming them would maybe stop them from doing it in the future?
Clearly, Brennan wants to keep open the option of torturing in secret, or at the least save his pals some heartburn.
Boy, I know I'm sure glad liberal bloggers fought the good fight and denied Brennan an important voice inside the Administration. We sure showed him, right?