News & Politics

Will Obama Block the Release of Key Bush-era Torture Memos Today?

On Wednesday, two officials reportedly said the White House plans to "propose redacting parts of the memos."

As criticism builds over the Obama administration’s position continuing or defending repressive Bush-era policies, today will present a key test of how committed the Obama administration is to publicly revealing details of the Bush administration’s torture program. That’s the deadline the Justice Department faces in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU seeking to force the White House to make public three 2005 memos written by Steven Bradbury, acting head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) from 2005 to 2009 under President Bush. The memos are believed to detail Justice Department legal justifications for torture, including water-boarding and the banging of prisoners’ heads against walls.

As previously reported, the Obama administration has been debating whether to release the memos or to release them redacted. The CIA has argued releasing the memos would threaten U.S. national security, while rights groups and some administration officials believe the public has a right to read the memos.

Now it appears the “Obama administration is expected to release some operational details of a Central Intelligence Agency interrogation program and its legal rationale, while seeking to keep secret the names of detainees and the way techniques were applied to particular prisoners,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “An announcement is expected Thursday on the release of memorandums in which Department of Justice lawyers gave legal guidance on CIA interrogations.”

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Jeremy Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.