CIA Denies Cheney's Request to Release Intelligence Documents
Thursday, May 14, 2009; 5:20 PM
The CIA has rejected a request from former vice president Richard B. Cheney to release documents that he says show that the agency's harsh interrogation methods helped thwart terrorist plots.
A letter released by the CIA today cites pending legal action as the sole reason for keeping the documents under seal.
"For that reason -- and that reason only -- CIA did not accept Mr. Cheney's request for a mandatory declassification review," agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano said.
Cheney, who has sparred publicly with the Obama administration since it prohibited coercive interrogations in January, submitted a formal request to the National Archives and Records Administration on March 31, asking for the declassification of two secret documents that were said to describe the intelligence gained from the CIA's questioning of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in overseas prisons.
Cheney, in a Fox News interview last month, said the documents "lay out what we learned from the interrogation process" and would presumably validate Bush administration claims that the controversial methods disrupted terrorists' plans and saved American lives.
The CIA must approve the public release of any such documents. But in its letter to the National Archives, the agency notes that the requested records are the subject of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.
"A document is excluded from mandatory declassification review if that document contains information that is the subject of litigation," the letter states.
Gimigliano said Cheney's request was handled "in accordance with normal practice, by CIA professionals with long experience in information management and release."
The question of whether harsh methods produced life-saving information has been hotly debated by congressional leaders as well as former and current intelligence officials with access to secret reports. Former CIA director Michael V. Hayden has estimated that half of the agency's knowledge of al-Qaeda's structure and operations came from such interrogations. But Dennis C. Blair, the Obama administration's director of national intelligence, contends that the interrogations produced valuable leads but ultimately did more harm than good.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), a member of the Senate intelligence committee, said at a hearing yesterday that the documents cited by Cheney did not make a persuasive case.
"Nothing I have seen -- including the two documents to which former vice president Cheney has repeatedly referred -- indicates that the torture techniques authorized by the last administration were necessary, or that they were the best way to get information out of detainees," Feingold said.