Attorney General Eric Holder restated his intention on Wednesday to release a comprehensive report, declassified to the fullest extent, on the legal advice provided by the Bush administration in its authorization of enhanced interrogation techniques.
Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder said that delays in releasing the findings of the Office of Professional Responsibility's (OPR) investigation into former President George W. Bush's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) was the result of administrative obstacles and not political foot-dragging or objections from the CIA
"No it is not," he said, when asked if CIA interference was a factor in delaying the publication of the OPR report.
"It is our hope to release as complete a report as we can," Holder said. "And one of the things that I think we want to do is declassify as much of this report as we can so that when people read it... they will have a full feeling for what it is, how the lawyers in the OPR dealt with (the investigation) and what is the basis of the conclusions that they reached."
Holder's remarks came in response to questioning from Rhode Island Democrat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who noted that the Senate had been told more than a year ago of a pending investigation into the legal rational used by the Bush administration lawyers.
The Attorney General's testimony came on the same morning that the Washington Post reported that the CIA was pushing the Obama White House to suppress key findings of a separate report by the agency's own inspector general. That report is believe to show that the torture of terrorism suspects had not yielded strong or operational information.
Whitehouse pressed repeatedly as to whether in the case of the OPR report, the CIA was trying to influence the study's findings. Noting that the agency had a role in reviewing the report and advocated keeping some of the findings classified, the senator asked Holder what kind of assurances he had received that those agency officials, who might be implicated, were not influencing the process.
"I don't think we have gotten anything yet from the CIA," responded Holder, "at least nothing I'm aware of with regard to what their position is concerning the declassification issue.... This may be not an issue at all. And to the extent that it is an issue, I will interact with [CIA] Director [Leon] Panetta and raise the questions that you raised in addition to our general feeling that we want to have as much as this declassified as we can."
Several hours before Holder testified, a group of human rights and civil liberty organizations released a letter to the Attorney General calling on his office to release the OPR report quickly.
"We welcomed your decision to release several OLC memoranda that authorized the use of abusive and illegal interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, forced nakedness, stress positions, and exposure to frigid temperatures," read the letter, signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Brennan Center for Justice, and others. "But within the four corners of these legal documents is only a small part of the picture," the letter stated. "By releasing the OPR report, you will demonstrate the administration's continuing commitment to transparency and openness. You will also help strengthen a proper understanding of the important role played by government lawyers serving the United States."