Levin: Cheney Lying About CIA Memos

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin claims that former Vice-President Dick Cheney is lying when he claims that classified CIA memos show that Bush Administration ordered torture/enhanced interrogation techniques produced actionable intelligence that saved American lives.

Levin, speaking at the Foreign Policy Association’s annual dinner in Washington on Wednesday, said an investigation by his committee into detainee abuse charges over the use of the techniques — now deemed torture by the Obama administration — “gives the lie to Mr. Cheney’s claims.”

The Michigan Democrat told the crowd that the two CIA documents that Cheney wants released “say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques.”

“I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction,” he added.

According to the article, the CIA is refusing to declassify the documents because they are subject to two pending lawsuits.

On May 14, the CIA rejected the former vice president’s request.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano, in a written statement, said the two documents Cheney requested are the subject of two pending lawsuits seeking the release of documents related to the interrogation program, and cannot be declassified.

I’m not familiar with this area of law, so I don’t know whether President Obama can legally declassify the memos in question or not. Anybody have a firmer idea? As it stands, if he can declassify them, I would hope that he would.

One thing I am curious about is whether Cheney’s request includes the 2004 CIA Inspector General report. A quick Google search didn’t reveal one way or another. The 2004 report was released at one point, but it was heavily redacted. However, Justice Department summaries have been released which seem to indicate that the report concluded

that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any “specific imminent attacks,” according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.

Frankly, I say bring on the declassified memos and let’s judge the facts ourselves. Personally, I would state that whether or not any valuable intelligence was obtained doesn’t change the fact that such actions are both illegal and immoral (as I am not a utilitarian or a moral relativist), but that doesn’t mean that these facts aren’t relevant to the debate.

Modified NYT Photo by Stephen Crowley.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, National Security, , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    Reading the headline, I thought “What an odd think for Mark Levin to say.”




    0



    0
  2. Eric Florack says:

    Frankly, I say bring on the declassified memos and let’s judge the facts ourselves. Personally, I would state that whether or not any valuable intelligence was obtained doesn’t change the fact that such actions are both illegal and immoral (as I am not a utilitarian or a moral relativist), but that doesn’t mean that these facts aren’t relevant to the debate.

    At that point, the question becomes “What is the larger immorality? The fact that we roughed up a terrorist, or that we ignored the opoprtunity to save innocent lives?”




    0



    0
  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Eric,

    Do you think that ends justify means? That’s the general utilitarian principle. I don’t think that that’s a valid moral doctrine.




    0



    0
  4. Grewgills says:

    CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano, in a written statement, said the two documents Cheney requested are the subject of two pending lawsuits seeking the release of documents related to the interrogation program, and cannot be declassified.

    If memory serves that is the result of a Bush era executive order. If that is the case Obama could simply reverse that order and make them available.




    0



    0
  5. Wayne says:

    AK
    “Do you think that ends justify means?”

    Sometimes. For example killing assailants who is in the process of killing people would be justified. Is it awful to kill someone? Yes but the end goal of protecting others justify the act of killing someone.




    0



    0
  6. The Strategic MC says:

    “…(d)ocuments that Cheney wants released “say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques.”

    So, that’s the new metric? Quantification of lives saved? If you don’t save enough folks, you can’t go EIT?

    Of course, all extraction of “valuable intelligence” at Gitmo was via “abusive techniques.” Hell, weren’t we told that we waterboarded KSM at least 100 times a day, every day? No time left for pleasantries; do the math.

    Stop the Freak Show. Release the memos. Now.




    0



    0
  7. Steve Plunk says:

    Wayne’s post makes it clear there are no moral absolutes when it comes to the ends justifying the means. Those who keep wanting those absolutes are fooling themselves and others into believing there can be such a thing. Bit’s point strikes home the question of competing moralities.

    But Alex is right, let’s have all the information before we attempt to pass judgment on anyone.




    0



    0
  8. Tlaloc says:

    The question here is if a concrete illegal means is justified by a completely hypothetical end that never, you know, actually happened.

    That makes the balancing act a wee bit lopsided in my view.




    0



    0
  9. Brian Knapp says:

    At that point, the question becomes “What is the larger immorality? The fact that we roughed up a terrorist, or that we ignored the opoprtunity to save innocent lives?”

    Tlaloc answers this:

    The question here is if a concrete illegal means is justified by a completely hypothetical end

    (emphasis mine)

    That’s really the conundrum. We CAN’T know beforehand that such actions will get

    1) useful information
    2) information gathered is necessary to save lives
    3) information gathered that is necessary to save lives will actually save lives

    So, pursuit of these techniques is based on faith alone that the person in question has information that is crucial to the welfare of others.




    0



    0
  10. anjin-san says:

    So where do we stop, once we have started? If the FBI gets a tip that domestic extremists are planning to blow up government buildings can they round up some suspects and torture them? Might save some lives…




    0



    0
  11. Tlaloc says:

    I think it was John Yoo that said it was perfectly fine to crush the testicles of a suspected terrorist’s child if you thought they had info about a bomb.

    I imagine he got crossed off of a few Bris invite lists for that one.




    0



    0
  12. floyd says:

    So…. Carl was briefed and Nancy was not, got it!




    0



    0
  13. Grewgills says:

    So…. Carl was briefed and Nancy was not, got it!

    Levin is talking about after the fact briefings, not consultation prior to the acts.




    0



    0
  14. Christopher says:

    Alex, what in the world do u feel was illegal? If u have a law degree, u must have received it from a cracker jack box, and if you don’t have one then u r an idiot to make such a comment.

    Tlaloc-did you see the new Star Trek movie? Your buddie spock plays a big role.




    0



    0
  15. Phil Smith says:

    Unfortunately, Obama really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about any of this, other than the optics.

    Obama Administration Asserts Uighur Detainees Have No Right to Come to US

    I remember those halcyon days when Alex was up in arms about the innocent Uighurs, so long ago. Last week or thereabouts.

    When, I ask, will the “not a utilitarian or relativist” apply his high moral dudgeon to Obama? Answer: never, because while not a relativist, he’s a complete partisan hack and hypocrite.




    0



    0
  16. Alex Knapp says:

    Phil,

    First I’ve heard of it. Consider it blogged.




    0



    0
  17. Phil Smith says:

    Alex, it may be the first you’ve heard of this specific issue, but please don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. You are very well aware that this administration has, in actual point of fact, changed exactly nothing about the treatment of detainees from the prior administration. We’d already stopped waterboarding, so no change there.

    Renditions? Continuing.

    Indefinite detention at the sole discretion of the Executive? Continuing.

    Enhanced Interrogation Techniques? Continuing.

    The only changes have been the letter behind the President’s name, the treatment of the situation by the press, and the descriptors for these issues. The only notable commentators to maintain their integrity on this issue so far have been Greenwald and Maddow, of all people. It’s actually humorous.




    0



    0