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So Why Didn’t the Obama Administration Disclose the 2007 OLC Memo?

Something I couldn’t figure out for my piece yesterday on the 2007 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel about CIA interrogations: why didn’t the Obama administration disclose it last week, when it released the 2002 and 2005 OLC memoranda? The Justice Department declined to comment on the memo, so I wasn’t going to get an answer from them. But since last week’s disclosures were the result of a lawsuit based on a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU, I thought I’d go to them to get some perspective.

The short answer, according to Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s national security project, is that the memos released last week were part of a “universe” of requested memos listed in an ACLU FOIA petition whose scope “ends in 2005,” putting our memo out of play. That scope was agreed to by the government and the ACLU after years of litigation. “There are still dozens of memos responsive to our original FOIA that they’ve not released,” Jaffer said.

Still, the ACLU in December filed another FOIA request to get up to date with what the Bush administration authorized the CIA and the Defense Department to do to detainees after 9/11. The organization asked for some specific memos, but also phrased its request for “catch-all” material, Jaffer said, “broad enough to encompass the memo you reported on.”

Jaffer added that he didn’t know about the 2007 OLC memo before TWI broke the story of its existence. “It sounds like this memo is central to the narrative,” he said. “The question of what methods the CIA believed to be permissible is a question we still only have a partial answer to. We know what [the administation] authorized in 2002, 2003 and 2005, but there’s still a lot of information about what happened to CIA detainees after 2005 [that isn't clear] And it sounds like this memo sheds a good deal of light on that question.”

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