White House Intel Director’s Dissenting Views Scrubbed from Released Memo
Admiral Dennis C. Blair, White House Intelligence Director, told colleagues in a memo last week that some Bush era torture techniques did produce information helpful in the nation’s fight against terrorism, according to a story tonight on the New York Times website.
This is interesting for two reasons. The first is obvious – Blair’s analysis could be construed as detracting from the Obama Administration’s stance on torture and the contents of the Bush Administration memos it has released. Today, Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs summed up the current versus former administration’s positions in his daily briefing when asked about former Vice President Dick Cheney’s latest shots across the bow:
Q Okay, last point is Vice President Cheney saying he’s disturbed by all of this.
MR. GIBBS: Well, you know, I — we’ve had a at least two-year policy disagreement with the Vice President of the United States of America. That policy disagreement is whether or not you can uphold the values in which this country was founded at the same time that you protect the citizens that live in that country. The President of the United States and this administration believes that you can. The Vice President has come to, in our opinion, a different conclusion.
The second reason for interest tonight is disturbing for those of us who voted for and count ourselves as Obama supporters. It appears that one of two things happened with regard to making Blair’s memo public. Either, a) a reporter found out about and requested a copy of the document; or, b) the Administration decided to proactively release it. Whether A or B, here’s the rub. The White House Press Office changed it. What was released, was not what was written. It’s even more troubling if it was changed after a request for a public document was made by the media. Since Blair is involved in national security and intelligence wouldn’t it have been easier to call the memo classified? Instead, it appears a lie was perpetrated.
From the Times story:
Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”
A spokeswoman for Admiral Blair said the lines were cut in the normal editing process of shortening an internal memo into a media statement.
What all reasonable people want from their government is the unvarnished truth. I can understand a public official – even more the president – not wanting to air staff work. What counts the most is the final policy. But, if that staff work is to be released, it should be accurate and not sanitized.
It’s obvious that this Administration is as message driven and communications savvy as any. What I hope does not happen is that this Administration begins obscuring the truth and lying to Americans to preserve the message.