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Torture Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:10 PM ET, 04/ 1/2009

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times: "The Obama administration is intensely debating whether and when to release documents from the Bush administration related to harsh interrogation methods used on prisoners belonging to Al Qaeda, according to administration and Congressional officials.

"Some officials, including Gregory B. Craig, the White House counsel, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have argued for disclosing the material as quickly as possible to distance the new administration from the most controversial policies of the Bush years. Mr. Holder and other top officials have condemned the most extreme of the past interrogation techniques, waterboarding, as illegal torture, and they see no reason to hide from public view what they consider the mistakes of their predecessors.

"But some former and current Central Intelligence Agency officials say a rush to release classified material could expose intelligence methods and needlessly offend dedicated counterterrorism officers. Some administration and Congressional officials said John O. Brennan, a C.I.A. veteran who now serves as President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, has urged caution in disclosing interrogation documents."

Carrie Johnson writes for The Washington Post: "Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) expressed alarm Tuesday that Bush administration lawyers allegedly were given an unusual opportunity to shape a report by Justice Department ethics watchdogs probing their conduct.

"The senators said they worried that new department leaders and lawmakers would get a watered-down version of a report that had 'undergone significant revisions at the behest of the subjects of the investigation.'

"Last year, the department's Office of Professional Responsibility finished its 4 1/2 -year inquiry of lawyers who blessed harsh interrogations of detainees. But the results of the probe remain under wraps while John C. Yoo and Jay Bybee respond to the findings, according to internal correspondence released yesterday."

Here, is the letter from Durbin and Whitehouse.

As blogger Marcy Wheeler points out, the timing raises the distinct possibility that knowledge of the OPR report's conclusions led former Office of Legal Counsel acting director Steven Bradbury to file a whiny, butt-covering memo five days before Barack Obama took office, officially retracting a whole slew of memos in which his former colleagues secretly rewrote the Constitution.

Among the questions Durbin and Whitehouse want answered:

"Is there any precedent for allowing the subject of an OPR investigation to review and provide comments on a draft report on OPR's findings and conclusions?

"Have the former Justice Department attorneys who are the subjects of the investigation been given a deadline for responding?

"Will OPR provide Attorney General Holder and Deputy Attorney General Ogden with the draft report that it provided to Attorney General Mukasey so that Attorney General Holder and Deputy Attorney General Ogden will know what revisions have been made to the report?"

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