The Obama administration has turned down former Vice President Dick Cheney’s request for the declassification of two CIA reports on the effectiveness of the Agency’s detainee program, THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned. A letter dated May 7, 2009, from the CIA’s Information and Privacy Coordinator, Delores M. Nelson, rejected Cheney’s request because the documents he has requested are involved in a Freedom of Information Act court battle.
“In researching the information in question, we have discovered that it is currently the subject of pending FOIA litigation (Bloche v. Department of Defense, Amnesty International v. Central Intelligence Agency). Therefore, the document is excluded from Mandatory Declassification Review,” Nelson wrote in the letter to the National Archives, the agency responsible for handling Cheney’s request.
The rejection of Cheney’s request will almost certainly intensify the public back-and-forth between the former vice president and the current administration. The contentious debate over enhanced interrogation exploded on April 16, when Obama authorized the release of four memos on interrogation prepared by the Bush Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. In a statement accompanying the release, Obama pointed to “exceptional circumstances” surrounding the memos that required their declassification and release. Four days later, in an interview on Fox News, Cheney revealed that he had requested the declassification of two memos that demonstrate that the techniques were effective.
White House officials have told reporters and members of Congress that the Cheney memos do not bolster the case for enhanced interrogation, as Cheney has suggested. But they have nonetheless refused to release them. President Obama has the legal authority to declassify the documents “with the wave of his hand,” according to one expert.