The CIA is not endorsing a move by Senate Republicans to allow the American public to learn critical information obtained from senior al Qaeda terrorists via tough interrogations.
It is the latest twist in an ongoing Republican battle with President Obama, who released once-secret Justice Department memos that outlined the interrogation techniques, but not what they produced.
In fact, according to the just-published budget report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Obama administration deliberately redacted, or blacked out, on the documents what the CIA learned from questioning Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the September 11 mastermind, and from other al Qaeda henchmen.
That, to Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond of Missouri, top Republican on the intelligence committee, is unfair. He won passage 10-5 in committee of bill language that would order the CIA to produce an unclassified version of four secret reports that detail what the U.S. learned by using water-boarding and other harsh methods in the years after 9-11.
Republicans view Obama’s selective release of some information, and his repeated use the word "torture" to describe the interrogations, as a concerted campaign on his part to discredit what President Bush did to protect America.
“Protecting American families from terrorist attacks should not be a political issue and the American people deserve to hear what life saving information was obtained from terrorist interrogation," Bond told Human Events. "The American people deserve more than just one-side of the story. Given that the Admin has declassified so many details about this program, the release of an unclassified version of four disparate documents should be more acceptable to them, but we have not heard an official opinion either way."
Bond’s attempt is the second by a top Republican. In May, former Vice President Dick Cheney formally asked the CIA to declassify two secret documents he had seen while in office. He said the two were reports of interrogations.
"One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn’t put out the memos that showed the success of the effort," Cheney told Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel show "Hannity."
David Wurmser, a senior aide to Cheney at the time, told Human Events the interrogations produced valuable knowledge on al Qaeda violent world view.
"It was really a black hole," Wurmser said of what the U.S. knew about Osama bin Laden’s terror army before the September 11 attacks. "We were very unaware of the deeper imagery and outlook they had."
But the CIA said no to Cheney, on legal grounds.
Spokesman Paul Gimigliano told Human Events, “The agency couldn’t accept Mr. Cheney’s Mandatory Declassification Review request for a very compelling reason: Executive Order 12958, which governs such requests, specifically prohibits disclosure when information in the documents sought is subject to pending litigation."
Gimigliano cited two cases, including Amnesty International vs. the CIA.
Asked if the CIA would support legislation that would allow for the information to be publicized, he said, "This agency does not, as a rule, comment publicly on pending legislation."
Bond is upping the pressure by not only requesting information from the two documents Cheney saw, but also two others reviewed by the intelligence committee. They are dated April 3, 2003; July 15, 2004; March 2, 2005; and June 1, 2005.
In a different tactic, Bond’s bill language would order the CIA to produce a declassified version of the four documents — not redacted versions of the documents themselves.
"By requiring the Director of the CIA to provide an unclassified version of these four documents to the public, the American people can make their own assessment of the value of the information obtained from these high-value terrorists," Bond said.
Bond was among six of the committee’s seven Republicans to file with the committee report a toughly worded statement critical of Obama’s move to selectively release classified information.
The six wrote: "Let us be clear about what [our language] does not do: unlike the Administration’s recent declassification of highly sensitive detention and interrogation documents, Section 427 does not require the declassification of these four documents. Rather, it requires only the release of an unclassified version prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency. We have reviewed each of the documents covered by this amendment. By limiting Section 427 in this manner, we are confident that no intelligence sources and methods will be disclosed and that there will be no damage to our national security. "
Obama took the extraordinary step in April of releasing Justice memos from 2003-05 that detailed approved interrogation techniques.
The President said, in part, "The interrogation techniques described in these memos have already been widely reported. Second, the previous Administration publicly acknowledged portions of the program — and some of the practices — associated with these memos. Third, I have already ended the techniques described in the memos through an Executive Order. Therefore, withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States."
But Bond and his colleagues said Obama gave U.S. enemies valuable information.
They wrote, "We objected to the release of these documents because it would give our enemies valuable insights into the types of limitations we impose on our intelligence collectors and allow terrorists to improve their interrogation resistance tactics. That damage has now been done.
"Unfortunately, the released documents, selectively chosen and selectively redacted, do not provide the American public with any objective perspective on the value of the information obtained from these high-value detainees. Indeed, with one highly sensitive document, the administration declassified virtually the entire memo, except for those paragraphs in which the value of the intelligence obtained was discussed."