Obama on the OLC Memo Release

With my comments interspersed:

The Department of Justice will today release certain memos issued by the Office of Legal Counsel between 2002 and 2005 as part of an ongoing court case. These memos speak to techniques that were used in the interrogation of terrorism suspects during that period, and their release is required by the rule of law.

Michael Hayden was on claiming they could have won this in court–I think he’s really underestimating how fed up Hellerstein is with this bullshit. 

My judgment on the content of these memos is a matter of record. In one of my very first acts as President, I prohibited the use of these interrogation techniques by the United States because they undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer. Enlisting our values in the protection of our people makes us stronger and more secure. A democracy as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security and our ideals, and that is why these methods of interrogation are already a thing of the past.

But that is not what compelled the release of these legal documents today. While I believe strongly in transparency and accountability, I also believe that in a dangerous world, the United States must sometimes carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is classified for purposes of national security. I have already fought for that principle in court and will do so again in the future. However, after consulting with the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence, and others, I believe that exceptional circumstances surround these memos and require their release.

First, the interrogation techniques described in these memos have already been widely reported. Second, the previous Administration publicly acknowledged portions of the program – and some of the practices – associated with these memos. Third, I have already ended the techniques described in the memos through an Executive Order. Therefore, withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.

Note the admission that not all of the practices have been acknowledged. Perhaps, just for example, blows to the head?  Also, the recognition that these have been widely reported suggests the ICRC report may have made a difference in this fight.

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.

No mention of those who wrote these memos. Does that mean we can prosecute Yoo and Bradbury?

Going forward, it is my strong belief that the United States has a solemn duty to vigorously maintain the classified nature of certain activities and information related to national security. This is an extraordinarily important responsibility of the presidency, and it is one that I will carry out assertively irrespective of any political concern. Consequently, the exceptional circumstances surrounding these memos should not be viewed as an erosion of the strong legal basis for maintaining the classified nature of secret activities. I will always do whatever is necessary to protect the national security of the United States.

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.

Not gonna work, Obama. If we’re a nation of laws, then we cannot let those who have broken the laws to go unpunished. That’s not retribution. That’s what "nation of laws" means. 

The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.

39 replies
  1. Aeon says:

    And such exquisite timing — just one of them coincidences, I’m sure.

    Spain Attorney General Against Guantanamo Probe:

    Spain’s attorney general said on Thursday he would not recommend a criminal investigation into six former Bush administration officials over torture at Guantanamo Bay, reducing the chances the probe will go ahead.

  2. Alison says:

    Once again, the POTUS is careful, calculated, never outraged or outrageous.

    He believes that you don’t push the river; it goes by itself.

    So he waited to demonstrate he would not be calling for the head of George Bush like Salome and John the Baptist. He allowed the pressure, both domestic and international, to build. He ensured that release was ineluctable.

    Then he did what he had to do.

    The release will inexorably lead to prosecutions. Obama knows that. And he will be able to act more in sorrow than in anger. But he will act when it is time.

    One shock at a time. He knows how to use time.

    • hackworth1 says:

      With the information we have so far, it appears that Obama is intent on continuing to forge ahead with the anti-constitutional course that Dubya has set.

      We seek not to assess blame as Obama suggests. We seek equal justice for all under the law.

      We, the peons, are subjected to the full weight of the law, should we engage it. Bushco criminality is apparently subjected to a different set of laws.

      • flyarm616 says:

        Gee ya think????? And that surprises who?????? And who wasn’t warned of this during the primaries??????? All the signs and evidence was out there during the primaries..some chose to ignore it and others did not and that is why we now have a divided democratic party..in fact why do we even worry about dems and Republicans?????? This crew is owned by the same people that W was owned by..but look the other way……….

      • Alison says:

        I hope I am right, too.

        I think he puts traps out. He is always setting bait. The Spanish will act. He will make sure there is enough reason for them to act.

        Not immediately, but upon sober reflection.

        I was not originally an Obama supporter. He was way too moderate for me. But I have seen him accomplish his aims repeatedly while wearing Teflon.

        He wants torture to be behind us. He believes in the rule of law. He can have both, and he can do it while spending almost no political capital.

        Just wait.

        • flyarm616 says:

          you are going to wait a lifetime and more..I am not willing to wait for the rule of law in my country to be carried out by that “Just Wait” bullcrap…That is delusional…at best.

          Torture is not ok, and it is unconstitutional..no one is above the law..no one..no one at all!!!!!!! And i am not willing to wait for criminals to be brought to justice..i will work against anyone who allows this to stand!!!!!!! I will put my money behind anyone who stands for truth and justice.

          People need to stand up and take responsibility for this adminstration ..they need to stand up and say..I WAS WRONG..THIS IS NOT OK..THIS IS MORE OF WHAT WE HAVE HAD FOR 8 YEARS..YOU WERE PLAYED OR YOU ALLOWED YOURSELF TO BE PLAYED BY THESE LIARS AND CRIMINALS! And anyone who allows this to stand is also a criminal..they are complicit in breaking the laws of our constitution!

        • fooj says:

          He believes in the rule of law?

          To date:

          1. Warrantless wiretapping
          2. Legal immunity for telecoms
          3. Continuing the rendition of “enemy” prisoners to foreign countries
          4. Prisoners (Bagram’s military prison) have NO rights
          5. STATE SECRETS

          Obama DOES NOT RESPECT of “believe in” the rule of law. How many times does HE have to make that painfully clear?

          • Alison says:

            Yup. He does.

            I don’t know whay he can’t unloose the furies and be done with this nightmare. I don’t know what he thinks will happen if he ends this monstrous rule of terror.

            He knows.

            I don’t think he’s afraid. I think he has some kind of totally opaque calculus. I think he wants the evil to end without his hands touching the levers to make it so.

            Political telekinesis.

            The country must cry out for what is right. His games count in our outrage. Otherwise there will be no change.

    • Minnesotachuck says:

      He believes that you don’t push the river; it goes by itself.


      This statement reminds me of what I once read was Bismarck’s concept of the job of the statesman: Put your ear to the ground, discern which direction the horse of history is running, and when he comes by jump on his back an hang on for dear life.

    • Petrocelli says:

      The bigger issue is really the core of American foreign policy for the past 40 years.

      The River has been flowing briskly in this direction for a long time and it will take skill and subtlety to change its course.

      I have never seen a Politician use Time and opportunity the way Obama does … this is going to be an incredible Presidency.

      • TarheelDem says:

        More than 40 years. It is time to dramatically change the framework that Truman put in place in 1947 to head off Republicans from starting World War III.

        And state secrecy must be on the table in the discussion of that new framework.

  3. hackworth1 says:

    Spanish PM Zapatero and Obama have been instructed by the Illuminati to STFU. Who controls the world’s governments? The Illuminati.

  4. pajarito says:

    Cue opposition op-ed by former V.P. Dick (Shotgun) Cheney in 5-4-3-2-1 seconds.

    He’s making it dangerous for torture-aiding lawyers!

  5. brendanx says:

    I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke.

    Another way of saying, “Darling, you’re hysterical.”

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Sen Whitehouse said if things come out, they’ll be shocking.
      But I see no point in blaming currently serving members of the military for the perversions that came out of OLC, the Oval Office, and Cheney’s office.

      Blaming currently serving military for Bush’s crimes is not reasonable, nor is it fair.

      I’m with Alison @3.
      What will come out will lead to sorrow, but I hope it also leads to a better world if people can believe there is some hope of justice.

  6. radiofreewill says:

    Obama brings the Rule of Law Team up to the line…sets them in the Power-I…and takes the snap.

    Pivoting around to his left, he hands the ball off to Leahy, following Reid, into a huge hole opened by the left guard, ICRC, big enough to drive a Mack Truck through!

    Reid flattens Cornyn! 5! Pelosi pancakes Boehner! 10! He’s got Feingold and Whitehouse out front! 15!

    He could go All.The.Way!

  7. Mary says:

    And notice that they got the Spanish AG to toe the line that he did not think the lawyers could be pursued bc they were not there and did not directly authorize the actions before the release of these new memos, which may well change the culpability analysis on that front as well.

    What Obama and others don’t seem to want to address is that as long as the office of the President and American actions are seen as being placed above the law, with torturers protected while their victims (even a 14 yo held now for 7 years at GITMO, or disappeared children even much younger, or those who have never reappeared, or those who were dumped off in foreign countries after they were deemed to be “mistakes” or those who are being held in our concentrated population camps in Iraq and Afghanistan etc.) never get anything other than being called terrorists and spit on, you are going to have big chunks of people in very volatile places in the world seeing a corrupt government that offers no justice.

    If anyone in Obama’s cartel thinks that’s a recipe for success, they’re wrong. And if his CIA debriefers are selling the tale that it’s more important to protect torturers than to protect America and American interests by pursuing justice, they know the disservice they are doing. Every death, every dismemberment, ever orphan – they all walk back to their doors if they sell the story that we need to stabilize the world by cramming American torture without consequences down its throat.

    • oregondave says:

      you are going to have big chunks of people in very volatile places in the world seeing a corrupt government that offers no justice.

      If anyone in Obama’s cartel thinks that’s a recipe for success, they’re wrong.

      Simply put: no justice, no peace. Not a threat, just a statement of how things are.

  8. acquarius74 says:

    Not gonna work, Obama. If we’re a nation of laws, then we cannot let those who have broken the laws to go unpunished. That’s not retribution. That’s what “nation of laws” means


    That says it for me, EW.

  9. fortnight says:

    empty wheel, and all guest bloggers.

    Your work today, yesterday and in a thousand posts past (and the tireless reporting by hundreds of other outlets), have led to this day…

    It is true, many are not happy…including me!

    Reading these won’t be much fun but for now, I merely say thanks for your wonderful reporting and cogent research…truly-

    Be well.

  10. RAMA says:

    Some enterprising reporter needs to ask Obama and Holder how they decide which laws will be enforced and which will be ignored because they might be considered retribution. I think at a minimum, we all need a copy of that list so we know which laws are no longer operative.

  11. dopeyo says:

    I want to believe there is a strategy at work here: Obama will assume the same position as the Bush Admin, and when cases come to trial and the Judge tosses out Telecomm Immunity, and cover-your-a** torture memos, and all the rest, Obama will stand up and say “we tried our best, but the Judges have taken it out of our hands.”

    And that way, he will disarm the right-wing nutjobs in the Senate and House. And they’ll stop calling him a traitor.

    And monkeys will fly out of my pants.

  12. timbo says:

    >and their release is required by the rule of law.

    Whose law? When and how? As someone else has pointed out…there is no rule of law when laws are selectively enforced only when it is to the advantage of tortures. Article 2 of Geneva is very clear…there is no excuse, none, for torturing anyone who falls under the jurisdiction of a signatory…under any circumstance. There are no excuses under Geneva. But apparently, in America’s failing democracy, there are excuses aplenty for ignoring the laws…

    My respect for Obama, the Congress, and the Federal Government just dropped another notch…or two.

  13. JoeBuck says:

    I’m very unhappy with Obama’s general approach, but this release was a win for the good guys. The leaked rumors and predictions were that the memo release was going to be blocked, or the memos would be heavily redacted, and that didn’t happen.

    Obama still wants to protect what shouldn’t be protected. He’s trying to steer a middle-of-the-road course where there is no middle: we either follow the law or we don’t. But I think that means he can be pressured to move in the right direction.

  14. radiofreewill says:

    Imvho, this fish is hooked! It’s only a question of reeling it in. If it’s done poorly, we’ll lose the fish. If it’s done skillfully, we’ll be satisfied with the results.

    The Honor of Our Entire United States is on the line now. Everything Obama says he, and We, stand for has been pushed into the betting pool in a bold attempt to get back what Bush Stupidly, Hatefully, Recklessly threw away for US.

    These Torture Memos are Not Legal Documents At All – they are Political Propaganda written After The Fact to Cover-Up War Crimes ordered by Bush and given The Sophist’s Veneer of ‘legality’ by Yoo, Bybee, Bradbury and Rizzo.

    The more the Legal Community, Constitutional Scholars, Judges and Lawyers look at these Monsterous Constructions – that Green-Light Cruel and Unusual, Depraved and Indifferent, Sadistic and Pathological Treatment of other Human Beings under Bush’s Complete Control – the Clearer it will become that the White House was occupied for eight years by a Severely Flawed but Calculatingly Evil Tyrant.

    For the Innocent who got rounded-up and tagged as ‘Enemy Combatants’ – there was No Way Out – they were ‘Enemy Combatants’ because Bush said they were – ‘deserving’ of being put into the ’system’ and kept there – because he said so. There doesn’t appear to have been an appeal process.

    That Bush was Out of Control explains Goldsmith’s comment that ‘everyone was concerned about personal liability’ when he began reviewing Yoo’s work. Everyone knew Bush was the problem, but Bush and his Policy-makers had the Power.

    This wasn’t a Rogue Interrogation Program discovered after its establishment. This was a consciously desired systematic course of brutality – Built By Bush – step by step.

    Bush designed-in the Plausible Deniability so that the combination of his Power as the President of the United States, acting as the Above the Law UE, with the Rigged Stamps of Approval from Yoo, Bybee, Bradbury and Rizzo proved to be enough to cloud even the judgement of People with good consciences – exactly as he intended.

    It would be wrong to include the rank-and-file members of the CIA, even those who were ‘in the system’ itself, in the same category as Bush and his Policy Henchpeople. Time and investigations, imvho, will show that the CIA is actually Full of People just like you and I – good people with good consciences, who were duped into doing Bush’s bidding.

    Will it turn out that there were ‘bad apples’ going way over the line? Absolutely, but they will be the exception and not the rule. Imvho, their peers will correct any issues within their ranks.

    The same cannot be said for Bush and his Torture Policy Team, including his boot-licking enablement ‘lawyers’ – they are Clearly All Bad Apples of the Most Heinous Kind. We’re talking about Consciously Gaming the Rule of Law to the point of making a mockery of Law itself – where Unrestrained Power is the ‘Law’ for the powerless.

    So, I say let the rank-and-file sort themselves out, while We focus on skillfully pulling-in the Big Fish.

  15. bobschacht says:

    Not gonna work, Obama. If we’re a nation of laws, then we cannot let those who have broken the laws to go unpunished. That’s not retribution. That’s what “nation of laws” means.

    The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.

    Thanks, EW, for another great piece of work. As for your ending quote, the President has a duty to do more than “follow” the law; through the DOJ, he has an obligation to enforce the law, blindly, without fear or favor, on all fronts. Selective enforcement violates the rule of law.

    Selective enforcement was a Bush Administration hallmark. Is it also what Obama wants to be remembered for?

    Bob in HI

  16. fooj says:

    Obama: The US does not torture

    Feb 24- President Obama speaking about the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay said “I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.”


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