April 7, 2009
Filubuster Over Release of Torture Memos?
Senate Republicans are threatening to filibuster the appointments of Dawn Johnsen as OLC chief and Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if President Obama releases three OLC memos from the Bush administration that likely contain additional details and legal justifications for detainee torture, according to Scott Horton at The Daily Beast.
This may help explain why the administration is backpedaling on its commitment to release the memos (although Michael Isikoff's Newsweek piece on Friday, describing the conflicts within the administration over the release, suggests that internal objections may be the better explanation).
Horton suggests that the gambit will test Obama's promise of greater transparency:
Barack Obama entered Washington with a promise of transparency. One of his first acts was a presidential directive requiring that the Freedom of Information Act, a neardead letter during the Bush years, was to be enforced according to its terms. He specifically criticized the Bush administration's practice of preparing secret memos that determined legal policy and promise to review and publish them after taking office.
But in the past week, questions about Obama's commitment to transparency have mounted.
If the Republican threat--and not merely internal dissent--is keeping the administration from releasing these memos, is this a legitimate exercise of Congressional power over an administration's agenda--its commitment to transparency and release of the OLC memos? Or is it raw politics? Or both?
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