Monday, April 06, 2009

Senate Republicans try to make President keep Americans in the dark about torture memos. He should call their bluff.

According to Scott Horton at the Daily Beast, Senate Republicans have threatened to 'go nuclear' and block some of President Obama's judicial appointments in order to prevent him from releasing Bush administration memos involving torture.

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. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. 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.

It is disappointing to me that the administration appears to be knuckling under to this particular blackmail. It is important that we as Americans know what exactly happened (or for that matter didn't happen) over the past several years.

Go ahead and release the memos. If Republicans want to be identified as willing to block the President's judicial counsels in order to stick up for the Bush policy of torturing prisoners then let them so be identified.

I'm not arguing that the position of legal counsel isn't important, either in the Deparments of State or of Justice. But how much we find out about what happened is critical if we want to decide publically and in a national debate about whether we are ever going to allow this stuff to happen again.

Besides, I've heard righty after righty after righty claim that Americans will support them and that nothing that bad was done to people who (they claim) were all known terrorists. OK, let's accept that at face value. If that is true, then why are the Senate Republicans going to the wall to try and prevent these memos from being released into the public domain? If there is really nothing more there beyond what is already known and if the public supports them on it, then wouldn't they welcome the disclosure? But obviously there is more there, and they are willing to as an entire Senate conference lay it on the line just to make sure that we never find out what has been done 'in our name.'

I say, call their bluff. Let the public decide who is right about this.

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