The CIA has turned down Dick Cheney's request for the declassification of two memos that the former Vice President claims show harsh interrogation techniques used on Al Qaeda operatives yielded valuable information that prevented terrorist attacks and saved thousands of American lives. The Agency says the memos can't be released because they are the subject of pending litigation Amnesty International has filed a request, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), for the release of materials relating to Gitmo detainees.
According to a Bush era executive order, documents involved in pending litigation can't be reviewed for declassification. "The two documents that former Vice President Cheney sought contain information that falls into that category," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said in a statement. "For that reason and that reason only CIA did not accept Mr. Cheney's request for a Mandatory Declassification Review." (Read a story on why Dick Cheney is so chatty all of a sudden.)
Cheney has mentioned the memos in his recent TV appearances. He told Fox News' Sean Hannity last month: "I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country. I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was." (See pictures from the Abu Ghraib aftershock.)
The CIA's decision to withhold the memos is bound to be criticized by Republicans who will argue that it runs contrary to the Obama administration's promises of more open government. At a Congressional hearing last month, Attorney General Eric Holder seemed to indicate the Administration's willingness to release the memos. "It is certainly the intention of this administration not to play hide and seek or not to release certain things in a way that is not consistent with other things," he told the House Appropriations Committee. "It is not our intention to try to advance a political agenda or to hide things from the American people."
In the absence of the memos, some Democrats have been taking shots at the former Veep. Yesterday, Sen. Russ Feingold accused Cheney of "misleading the American people" about the two memos. Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the so-called torture memos, Feingold said: "I am a member of the Intelligence Committee, and I can tell you that nothing I have seen, including the two documents to which [Cheney] has repeatedly referred, indicates that the torture techniques authorized by the last administration were necessary or that they were the best way to get information out of detainees."
Expect Cheney to fire back any moment now...