“Holy Hell”

Michael Isikoff reports that the White House is in the middle of an internal brawl over whether to release the last of the Bush-era torture memos:

As reported by Newsweek, the White House last month had accepted a recommendation from Attorney General Eric Holder to declassify and publicly release three 2005 memos that graphically describe harsh interrogation techniques approved for the CIA to use against Al Qaeda suspects. But after the story, U.S. intelligence officials, led by senior national-security aide John Brennan, mounted an intense campaign to get the decision reversed, according to a senior administration official familiar with the debate. “Holy hell has broken loose over this,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because of political sensitivities.

….Brennan succeeded in persuading CIA Director Leon Panetta to become “engaged” in his efforts to block release, according to the senior official. Their joint arguments stalled plans to declassify the memos even though White House counsel Gregory Craig had already signed off on Holder’s recommendation that they should be disclosed, according to an official and another government source familiar with the debate. No final decision has been made, and it is likely Obama will have to resolve the matter, according to the sources who spoke to Newsweek.

Brennan’s argument is that release of the memos might embarrass allies who helped us torture prisoners.  He might even be right.  But if that makes foreign intelligence services more cautious about helping us commit war crimes in the future, that would be a argument in favor of releasing the memos, not against it.

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