By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Former vice president Richard B. Cheney is asking for the release of two CIA reports in his bid to marshal evidence that coercive interrogation tactics such as waterboarding helped thwart terrorist plots, according to documents released yesterday by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Cheney's request was submitted March 31, more than two weeks before President Obama decided to release four "top secret" memos in which Bush administration lawyers sanctioned harsh tactics for questioning prisoners.
The release of the memos has renewed a fiery debate over whether former senior Bush officials should be the targets of criminal investigations into whether they violated U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture. Obama said this week that his administration has not ruled out prosecuting senior lawyers and others responsible for allowing the harsh tactics, but he said he opposes a special "truth commission" favored by some lawmakers.
Cheney, who has emerged as an outspoken critic of Obama's national security policies, said in an interview on Fox News this week that he had asked for the release of documents that "lay out what we learned through the interrogation process" and how it saved U.S. lives.
The request applies to CIA reports issued on July 13, 2004, and June 1, 2005, that were held in a file marked "detainees" inside the office of the vice president, according to archives documents. Cheney's initial request said the reports were eight and 13 pages long, respectively; archives staff determined they are 12 and 19 pages long, including attachments.
Stephannie Oriabure, a presidential archivist, wrote in an April 8 letter to Cheney that the documents require "an agency review" before they can be released.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the review will take "up to about three weeks' time."
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said Cheney is attempting to "cherry-pick" intelligence to support his argument in favor of coercive interrogation tactics. "If we really wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of the CIA's interrogation program, we have to look at more than two small documents," he said.
The Obama administration is wrestling with how much material to release related to harsh interrogations, in part because of ongoing lawsuits demanding disclosures. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told Congress he would not "play hide and seek" with documents and would strive to release as many records about interrogations as possible.