It was supposed to be a magical day: the day when, in response to an agreement reached in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama administration will declassify an important document in the history of its predecessor’s apparatus of torture. I refer to the 2004 inquest undertaken by ex-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson into the CIA’s interrogations and detentions programs. The Bush administration released an almost-totally-redacted version in May 2008, and despite the Obama administration’s pledge to disclose a more-detailed version of the document, it punted the disclosure a week ago Friday to today. “We can only hope that this delay is a sign that the forces of transparency within the Obama administration are winning over the forces of secrecy and that the report will ultimately be released with minimal redactions,” ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said last week. “The CIA should not be permitted to use national security as a pretext for suppressing evidence of its own unlawful conduct.”
Yeah, if only. The Obama administration won’t release the document today. According to the ACLU, it’s asked for a three-day reprieve. ACLU’s consented. Game Day is now supposed to be July 1.
Helgerson’s 2004 report is a crucial one. As disclosed through references in the footnotes of the 2005 Office of Legal Counsel memos, it documents how the agency took the OLC’s legal imprimatur for certain abusive interrogation techniques and expanded those techniques in practice to, among other things, waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, denying him sleep for a week by contorting his body into unnatural positions, and restrict his diet to between 1000 and 1500 calories a day. Marcy Wheeler has an excellent couple of posts about what torture questions the report *should *answer. And Helgerson, who recently retired from CIA, suffered for his work, tussling with former Director Michael Hayden, who attempted to limit his independence.
Maybe we’ll see the answers to those torture questions early next week, but it’s sure not looking good. I’ll have the government’s letter seeking the reprieve shortly.
UPDATE: Here’s the letter from the Justice Department:
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