Release of 'Holy Grail' Torture Document To Be Delayed

Release of 'Holy Grail' Torture Document To Be Delayed

About a month and half ago, we made note of the way the stars seemed to be aligning for the release of ex-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson's classifed report on the CIA's detentions and interrogations program, the so-called "Holy Grail" of torture-related documents.

This document was believed to have ramifications in the ongoing debate about the efficacy of torture, which has been cast only too recently by the media as an epic national security battle between President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney. As Greg Sargent noted, back in May:

Dem Congressional staffers tell me this report is the "holy grail," because it is expected to detail torture in unprecedented detail and to cast doubt on the claim that torture works -- and its release will almost certainly trigger howls of protest from conservatives. Tellingly, neither the CIA nor the White House knocked down the story in response to my questions, with spokespeople for both declining comment.

A month ago, I wondered of the threat of this disclosure might temper Cheney's outspoken support for those torture policies. Clearly, it did not!

Well, if the arc of the Obama administration truly bends toward transparency, it seems that we've still got a ways to bend. As Spencer Ackerman reports today:

It was supposed to be a magical day: the day when, in response to an agreement reached in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama administration will declassify an important document in the history of its predecessor's apparatus of torture. I refer to the 2004 inquest undertaken by ex-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson into the CIA's interrogations and detentions programs. The Bush administration released an almost-totally-redacted version in May 2008, and despite the Obama administration's pledge to disclose a more-detailed version of the document, it punted the disclosure a week ago Friday to today. "We can only hope that this delay is a sign that the forces of transparency within the Obama administration are winning over the forces of secrecy and that the report will ultimately be released with minimal redactions," ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said last week. "The CIA should not be permitted to use national security as a pretext for suppressing evidence of its own unlawful conduct."

Yeah, if only. The Obama administration won't release the document today. According to the ACLU, the CIA has asked for a three-day reprieve. ACLU's consented. Game Day is now supposed to be July 1.

Ackerman has a copy of the DOJ's letter, and a pessimistic take on the prognosis: "Maybe we'll see the answers to those torture questions early next week, but it's sure not looking good."

We'll obviously be watching for some sort of news, one way or the other, on July 1. Watch carefully, though, for the possibility that this gets lost over the Independence Day holiday.

On these pages, Rep. John Conyers called for these documents to see the light of day, citing a shared responsibility:

To me, the bottom line is this: If we move on now without fully documenting what occurred, without acknowledging the betrayal of our values, and without determining whether or not any laws have been broken, we cannot help but validate all that has gone on before. If we look at the Bush record and conclude that the book should simply be closed, we will be tacitly approving both the documented abuses and the additional misdeeds we will have chosen to leave uncovered.

That is why there is nothing partisan about the call for further review. In the end, these acts were not taken by George Bush, or by John Yoo, or even by Dick Cheney -- they were taken by the United States of America. By all of us. There is no avoiding the responsibility we all bear for what has been done, and for what we choose to do next.

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