Why is it that, on the issues that count (Iraq, torture, FISA, secrecy), this administration is so much like the previous one? It really makes me wonder:
The Obama administration objected yesterday to the release of certain Bush-era documents that detail the videotaped interrogations of CIA detainees at secret prisons, arguing to a federal judge that doing so would endanger national security and benefit al-Qaeda's recruitment efforts.
In an affidavit, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta defended the classification of records describing the contents of the 92 videotapes, their destruction by the CIA in 2005 and what he called "sensitive operational information" about the interrogations.
The forced disclosure of such material to the American Civil Liberties Union "could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security by informing our enemies of what we knew about them, and when, and in some instances, how we obtained the intelligence we possessed," Panetta argued.
Although Panetta's statement is in keeping with his previous opposition to the disclosure of other information about the CIA's interrogation policies and practices during George W. Bush's presidency, it represents a new assertion by the Obama administration that the CIA should be allowed to keep such information secret. Bush's critics have long hoped that disclosure would pinpoint responsibility for actions they contend were abusive or illegal.
Last month, President Obama said he would seek to bar the release of photographs being sought by other nonprofit groups that depict abusive interrogations at military prisons during the Bush administration.
Panetta argued that none of the 65 CIA documents immediately at issue, which the ACLU has sought for several years in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, should be released. He asked U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein to draw a legal distinction between the administration's release in April of Justice Department memos authorizing the harsh interrogations and the CIA's desire to keep classified its own documents detailing the specific handling of detainees at its secret facilities overseas.
He said that while the Justice Department memos discussed harsh interrogation "in the abstract," the CIA information was "of a qualitatively different nature" because it described the interrogation techniques "as applied in actual operations."