Monday, April 20, 2009

Another VERY IMPORTANT Article

Another must read article [please ignore in the comments of the article linked the “leftist ‘peanut gallery’” – just joking… I love Kimba in a plutonic – e.g. conservative -- way]… I love Wall Street Journal Online, you should make it a weekly habit, if not daily!

Obama Tilts to CIA on Memos

Top Officials at Odds Over Whether to Withhold Some Details on Interrogation Tactics
APRIL 15, 2009

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed in Central Intelligence Agency interrogations, despite a push by some top officials to make the information public, according to people familiar with the discussions.

These people cautioned that President Barack Obama is still reviewing internal arguments over the release of Justice Department memorandums related to CIA interrogations, and how much information will be made public is in flux.

Among the details in the still-classified memos is approval for a technique in which a prisoner's head could be struck against a wall as long as the head was being held and the force of the blow was controlled by the interrogator, according to people familiar with the memos. Another approved tactic was waterboarding, or simulated drowning.

A decision to keep secret key parts of the three 2005 memos outlining legal guidance on CIA interrogations would anger some Obama supporters who have pushed him to unveil now-abandoned Bush-era tactics. It would also go against the views of Attorney General Eric Holder and White House Counsel Greg Craig, people familiar with the matter said.

Top CIA officials have spoken out strongly against a full release, saying it would undermine the agency's credibility with foreign intelligence services and hurt the agency's work force, people involved in the discussions said. However, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair favors releasing the information, current and former senior administration officials said.

Human-rights groups and many in the administration have called the techniques torture.

People familiar with the matter said some senior intelligence advisers to the president raised fears that releasing the two most sensitive memos could cause the Obama administration to be alienated from the CIA's rank and file, as happened during the Bush administration when Porter Goss, who was unpopular among CIA officers, headed the agency.

The government faces a court deadline Thursday in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the release of three 2005 memos issued by Steven Bradbury, then acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel under former President George W. Bush.

"We want to maximize the amount of information available to the American people," said a senior administration official involved in the discussions, adding that such a policy has to be balanced so it "does not damage national security interests."

Under one option, the outlines of which were described by current and former government officials close to the discussions, the administration would ask a judge to keep secret large parts of the Bradbury memos. Two of the memos contain particularly explicit details of methods and describe combinations of tactics that were deemed to fall within the bounds of the Geneva Convention on torture, according to people who have read them.

Two or three proposals that would reveal varying degrees of detail contained in the memos about the CIA program are before the president, another senior administration official said.

Regardless of what Mr. Obama decides, said the senior administration official, "the administration will release a lot more than has ever been released before" because at a minimum, previously undisclosed legal justifications for the CIA interrogation program will be made public.

Advisers describe the memos decision as a pivotal moment for the administration and its relationship with the powerful intelligence apparatus. They say the debate has been heated on both sides.

It reached a climax on Mr. Obama's trip to Europe for the G-20 summit two weeks ago. The president was given competing memos from the Justice Department and the CIA arguing for and against release of the 2005 documents, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Holder and Justice lawyers, along with Mr. Craig, have argued aggressively for releasing operational details. Justice Department lawyers argue that the agency shouldn't be in a position of defending practices the new administration has disavowed. They say releasing the documents would help fulfill the president's promise of greater transparency.

Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment.

But top CIA officials and some in the White House argue that disclosing such secrets will undermine the agency's credibility with foreign intelligence services. They also say revealing operational details will embroil officers in probes of activities that were cleared by Justice Department lawyers at the time.

In the middle is deputy national-security adviser John Brennan, a former CIA official, who has generally sided with the CIA, the senior administration official said.

Intelligence officials also believe that making the techniques public would give al Qaeda a propaganda tool just as the administration is stepping up its fight against the terrorist group in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some former administration officials have also argued that releasing all the memos could help terrorists train to endure the most extreme interrogation techniques.

The 2005 Bradbury memos represent an effort by the Bush administration to keep the CIA program of "enhanced" interrogations of certain detainees on a legal footing after the Bush administration in late 2004 withdrew earlier Justice Department memos on interrogation.

Leon Panetta, the CIA director, has been described by some officials as initially favoring release, then later pulling back from that view. Other officials say Mr. Panetta always favored releasing only legal outlines.

Making those details public, one official said, would make CIA officials disinclined to take any risks in the future.

Write to Evan Perez at and Siobhan Gorman at