Extraordinary redaction

Yesterday John asked why the Obama administration would not want the public to see detailed and previously undisclosed information about intelligence successes achieved through enhanced interrogation, especially when the administration is happy to give terrorists a road map to these interrogation techniques. Now Peter Baker reports on the private memo circulated by DNI Blair last week:

President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.

“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.

Admiral Blair sent his memo on the same day the administration publicly released secret Bush administration legal memos authorizing the use of interrogation methods that the Obama White House has deemed to be illegal torture. Among other things, the Bush administration memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.

Why is this being reported only now when the Bush administration OLC memos were released last week? Baker notes:

Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

Baker provides a spokesman’s explanation for the redaction:

A spokeswoman for Admiral Blair said the lines were cut in the normal editing process of shortening an internal memo into a media statement emphasizing his concern that the public understand the context of the decisions made in the past and the fact that they followed legal orders.

As John observed, the spokeman to the contrary notwithstanding, the logical inference is that Obama wants to release information that he thinks will smear the Bush administration, but does not want the American public to be fully informed about the benefits that were gained from the Bush administration’s policies.

The Obama administration purports to pride itself on its transparency. Normal editing? More like extraordinary redaction. In this case, the only transparency involved is the transparency of the administration’s lie.

UPDATE: Our friend Stephen Hayes has more on the politicized redactions here. Steve writes: “It is possible, I suppose, that a series of fortunate coincidences has resulted in the public disclosure of only that information that will be politically helpful to the Obama administration. It is also possible that Dick Cheney has taken up synchronized swimming in his retirement.”


Books to read from Power Line