Double-Secret (Enhanced) Probation

With the advent of law school exam season, a word on uncomfortable interrogations:

President Obama has drawn ire of late for declassifying CIA interrogation histories. Proponents hail the “transparency,” while opponents fear we’ve shown too much of our hand. The later camp includes former CIA director George Tenet who, along with four other former intelligence chiefs, opposed publishing the interrogation methodology.

But published it was, and now we know terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was “ill-treated” five times (not 183 times, as previously reported), for whatever good that knowledge does us. In defending his decision, the President explained, “I am absolutely certain it was the right thing to do… we could have gotten this information in other ways.”

Which leaves us asking of this transparency: why does the President, so eager to declassify interrogation methods, refuse to declassify other memoranda citing the effectiveness of “enhanced interrogation” techniques? We’ve been allowed to peek at what was done; now can’t we see whether or not it worked?

Explains the President: “[Those memoranda] haven’t been officially declassified and released, and so I don’t want to go into the details.” 

In the same speech,  the President praised former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for refusing to torture German prisoners while Nazi pilots bombed England during World War II. He failed to note that President Bush relied on England’s intense physical interrogations, 30 years later, of Irish Republican Army detainees in defending his own sanctioned interrogations (a 1978 European Court of Human Rights decision declared those English interrogations legal, and not torture).

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been a vocal proponent of strong interrogations; the President has been an opponent. Why then, in the name of disclosure, won’t the President declassify the results of those interrogations and rebut Mr. Cheney’s assertions that such methods are effective?

An administration’s refusal to release a full picture lends credence to Abe Greenwald’s criticism of the majority’s ability to selectively filter information:

“George W. Bush’s critics spent eight years feverishly accusing the administration of crimes. They had it easy because there was no serious burden of proof. But the prospect of an actual investigation means they can no longer play fast and loose with the facts… . The charges have to jibe with reality, for a change.”

With half the story still locked up, it’s hard to do anything but guess if the charges do, in fact, jibe with reality.


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