A few days ago Michael Isikoff reported that the White House had backed off on plans to release some Bush-era torture memos thanks to mounting internal pushback: “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.”
Today, Scott Horton suggests that there’s more than just pushback involved:
Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public….A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.
These memos must be real time bombs. So much material has been released already, both officially and otherwise, that I’ve long assumed we already knew everything the Bush administraton had done — in broad terms, anyway. But apparently not. If these memos just confirmed our use of things like stress positions and black sites, it’s hard to imagine they’d prompt such ferocious opposition. There must be some truly new — and truly gruesome — disclosures in them.