Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gibbs: Bush tied CIA's hands on Cheney request


White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is blaming an executive order signed by President George W. Bush for the denial of Vice President Dick Cheney's request for declassification of two memos he says show that important intelligence was obtained from aggressive interrogation techniques some have described as torture.

"The CIA is the agency that has jurisdiction over this," Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Barack Obama returned from a trip to Arizona and New Mexico. "They made the decision, in all honesty, based on an executive order from the Bush administration, which under the type of request that Vice President Cheney made, precludes these being declassified because they're part of ongoing litigation. The executive order updated in the Bush administration precludes their release."

The CIA's denial cited two pending court cases seeking the Central Intelligence Agency memos in question. A spokesman for Cheney has said that the former vice president plans to appeal the refusal.

While Gibbs is correct that the order exempts the documents from automatic or "mandatory" review while litigation is pending, there is no legal obstacle to the Obama administration declassifying the material either on their own initiative or in response to the litigation. Indeed, that is precisely what happened with the four Office of Legal Counsel memos about the interrogation program that were released back on April 16......

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