3,000 Documents, or 3 Torture Memos?

Now, look.  I don't want to be pegged as a conspiracy theorist.  But I find what the Obama Administration has done over the past few days with regards to some important torture-related issues a little strange.

The first event was the massive withholding of documents pertaining to the interrogation tapes (all 92 of them) that the CIA (criminally) destroyed.  The ACLU asked for the documents, and their Blog of Rights covers it:

Today we were expecting a list of documents pertaining to the contents of the interrogation tapes destroyed by the CIA. We've been waiting for it all day, and at 5:20 p.m., we got zilch, save a letter from the DOJ telling the Judge presiding over the case that they won't turn over anything.

These 3,000 documents include summaries, transcripts, reconstructions and memoranda relating to the destruction of the tapes. Also withheld: the list of witnesses who may have viewed the tapes or had custody of the tapes before their destruction.

This stuck out to me because I remembered that there was a bit of excitement a few weeks ago as to what those documents contained.  mcjoan wrote at the time:  

The most encouraging bit from the letter: "The CIA intends to produce all of the information requested to the Court and to produce as much information as possible on the public record to the Plaintiffs." It would appear that the CIA under Panetta intends to cooperate fully in this.

Well the exact opposite happened!  Here is what we will get:  "The CIA will provide these lists to the Court for in camera review on March 26, 2009."  It is not mcjoan's fault that the CIA completely lied, but it will be our fault if we continue to believe them.

Following directly upon this news of the massive withholding of evidence from the public (and another promise broken), the Justice Department moved to declassify three torture memos from the Bush-era.  These memos will detail the legal framework for torture and the permitted techniques.  It will be the abstract version of what is detailed in the 3,000 documents Obama doesn't want you to see about tapes destroyed so you could not see torture in action.

The statute of limitations on torture is pretty short (8 years).  And Obama is clearly going to take his time in revealing what happened.  The call for action is going to have to come from outside his Administration.

I think it is important to keep track of the steady stream of B.S. on accountability and general detention/interrogation issues from the Obama Administration because there is almost certainly a strategy behind it. Is it a coincidence that news of three new torture memos coming out follows directly on the witholding of 3,000 documents? We know Obama does not care about investigating Bush, and his administration does not seem morally squeamish about using the "you were just following orders" excuse. What is frustrating is that the Obama Administration doesn't mind revealing the legal frameworks for torture - documentation for the record books, I suppose - but they are totally unable to come to grips with the actual torture done to detainees. Let's throw out Binyam's case. Hide the actual evidence. Deny habeas corpus to non-Afghanis that are to this day held at Bagram.

It feels to me that the Obama Administration on the subject of interrogation and detention policy is playing a media game.  One well-publicized commendable thing comes on the heels of another in a series of legal actions that defend Bush executive power or deny justice to the victims of torture.  The drip drip of information completely controlled by the Obama Administration becomes (hypothetically) our consolation for the lack of criminal prosecutions or a "day in court" for people like Binyam Mohamed.

Well, I don't think the executive branch should be allowed to control our access to such information, or grant such immunity to our Bushco criminals.  It wouldn't be a bad thing to have an independent investigation in charge of what is leaked and what is not, who is tried and who is not, what evidence is revealed and what is not. We really don't need something as shameful, embarrassing and criminal as what happened over these past 8 years controlled by White House spin doctors.

[Cross-posted at Back To Our Senses]

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