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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The CIA Ate AG Holder’s Homework?

Yesterday, Alliance for Justice asked the question “Where is the OPR report on the torture memos?” Despite Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Whitehouse (D-RI) asking Attorney General Eric Holder the same question during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, we aren’t much closer to an answer.

Both Senator Durbin and Whitehouse pointed out that the process of undertaking the investigation and compiling the report had begun quite some time ago. Both senators noted that the men being investigated for potential professional misconduct—John Yoo, Steven Bradbury and now-Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee—had submitted their responses to the report on May 4th, well over a month ago.

And yet, we heard the same language from the attorney general that we’ve been hearing for months. The process is “pretty close to the end.” A declassified version of the report should be ready in “a matter of weeks.” (Of course, officials at the DOJ were saying it would be “a matter of weeks” months ago.)

Attorney General Holder says that it is important that Americans see as complete a report as possible. True. However, declassifying certain sections of the report should not be used as a delaying tactic for releasing the report. Senator Whitehouse quite rightly asked if it is the CIA and the declassifying process that is holding up the report. The attorney general then explained work is still being done on the OPR report within the Justice Department, particularly in crafting responses to the comments made by Yoo, Bradbury and Bybee. But, again, the comment period closed on May 4.

Alliance for Justice is not urging undue haste. It is important that the Department of Justice get this right so we can understand how the Department went so wrong. However, we do not support undue delay, either. With each reason and excuse proffered by the Department as to why we haven’t seen the results of an investigation begun five years ago, delay seems to be a much greater part of the process than haste.

Senator Whitehouse also inquired if anyone from the CIA taking part in the review and declassification process—those with influence on both the content and timing of the report—was also implicated or involved in the very conduct the report investigates. Mr. Holder once again said he wanted to release as complete a report as possible. Admirable, but it doesn’t answer the question posed by Senator Whitehouse—as the senator was quick to point out. He asked the same question, and though the attorney general did explain something of the coordination between the CIA and the DOJ, including the fact that final judgment calls from the CIA would be made by Director Panetta who is not implicated in the report, Senator Whitehouse didn’t get a direct answer answer about whether any of the CIA employees taking part in the process might have a conflict of interest.

And that seems to be the theme with the OPR report. Lots of direct questions, very few direct answers. We are left asking the same question we did yesterday: Where is the OPR report on the torture memos?

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