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Push Back, Mr. President

By Dan Froomkin
9:09 AM ET, 06/17/2009

Give them an inch, they'll take a mile. Now that President Obama has shown that he can be rolled when it comes to his commitment to transparency, the defenders of torture are shamelessly pressuring him to keep their secrets even when court rulings and common sense say otherwise.

The latest attempt -- which finds complicit CIA officials pushing Obama to renege on his administration's pledge to release a highly critical 2004 CIA inspector general's report -- is so blatantly self-serving that even some former CIA officials are condemning it as unjustifiable.

Stop letting them play you for a sucker, Mr. President. Return to your principles. Let the sunshine disinfect this wound.

The CIA inspector general's report questioned the legality and the effectiveness of the CIA's interrogation program and set off a massive administration review -- and, ironically, reauthorization -- of torture techniques. Thus far, only a massively blacked-out version has been released to the public, in response to an ACLU lawsuit. After the ACLU appealed, however, the Justice Department promised a federal judge in May that it would review the report and produce by Friday any additional material that could be released.

R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick write in The Washington Post:

The CIA is pushing the Obama administration to maintain the secrecy of significant portions of a comprehensive internal account of the agency's interrogation program, according to two intelligence officials.

The officials say the CIA is urging the suppression of passages describing in graphic detail how the agency handled its detainees, arguing that the material could damage ongoing counterterrorism operations by laying bare sensitive intelligence procedures and methods.

So are they actually saying we don't want our torture secrets revealed -- because we might want to do it again? It's an amazing show of gall. And, in fact, too much even for some CIA veterans to take quietly.

Some former agency officials said that CIA insiders are fighting a rear-guard action to prevent disclosures that could embarrass the agency and lead to new calls for a so-called "truth commission" investigating the Bush administration's policies.

Two former agency officials who read the 2004 report said most of its contents could be safely released and, if anything, would seem familiar....

"[CIA Director] Leon Panetta has been captured by the people who were the ideological drivers for the interrogation program in the first place," said a former senior officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity when discussing the still-classified report....

"In essence, [Inspector General John Helgerson] was arguing in 2004 that there were clear violations of international laws and domestic laws," [said a former agency official who read the report]....

Another former official who read the report said its full text laid bare "the good, the bad, and the ugly" and added that "I believe that some people would find offensive" what was done, because it was "not in keeping with American values."

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