Leahy to White House: Ahem, Torture Docs Please

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Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) correspondence with the White House tends to be something of a one-way affair. But he, at least, has been a faithful pen pal.

Today, again, he wrote White House counsel Fred Fielding to request documents relating to the administration’s torture and interrogation policies (see below). He hasn’t received a reply to the one he wrote two weeks ago, but he’s since learned that the administration is hiding a third Justice Department memo outlining interrogation policies, and now he wants that, in addition to the other two he doesn’t have. And Fielding, don’t try that old trick of handing over already public documents as if they were actually something new. Fool me once….

Congratulations are in order: Leahy and the White House will soon celebrate the one year anniversary of Leahy’s November 15, 2006, request for “any and all Department of Justice directives, memoranda, and/or guidance . . . regarding CIA detention and/or interrogation methods.” So a Happy Torture Policy Stonewalling Day to Pat and everyone in the Bush Administration!

Leahy’s letter is below.

November 7, 2007

Mr. Fred Fielding, Esq.
Counsel to the President
Office of the Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Fielding:

I have not received a reply to the letter I sent to you almost two weeks ago seeking a fuller accounting of this Administration’s legal justifications and policies with regard to torture and interrogation. Another copy of my unanswered October 25, 2007, letter is enclosed.

Over the past few days I have read in the press that there may, in fact, be three legal memoranda from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2005, not just two, that have been withheld from us. Apparently, the Administration has conceded the existence of three such memoranda in court filings this week. Without even an accounting from you and the Administration, it is impossible for me to know.

As I have previously noted, the Committee does not yet have a complete picture of the Administration’s historic position on the legal basis and standards for detention, transfer, and interrogation in connection with counter-terrorism efforts. It is important that you share with the Senate Judiciary Committee all legal opinions on these issues from the Office of Legal Counsel and elsewhere in the Department of Justice and the Administration. I noted in my previous letter that you have not, despite our repeated requests, provided us with the 2005 memoranda that apparently authorize the use of combinations of cruel and extreme practices. We are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of my November 15, 2006, request for “any and all Department of Justice directives, memoranda, and/or guidance . . . regarding CIA detention and/or interrogation methods.”

I regret that you did not take the opportunity created with the announced resignation of Alberto Gonzales to work with us to put these matters to rest. The first step would have been disclosure of the legal memoranda still being kept secret from the Senate Judiciary Committee. That has yet to occur. As you have recently witnessed, without these materials and a shared understanding of what the Administration has been doing, is doing, its justifications, its legal analysis, and its purported basis for overriding our laws and treaty obligations, many Members of the Committee remain very concerned.

Much of the controversy and discussion surrounding the Committee’s consideration of the President’s nomination of Michael Mukasey to serve as Attorney General arose from these matters. The Administration’s lack of cooperation greatly contributed to the controversy and ultimately to the opposition to that nomination.

Sincerely,

PATRICK LEAHY

Chairman

cc: Hon. Arlen Specter

Encl.