Wed, 27 May 2009 20:21:12 +0000 – By Ken Blackwell and Ken KlukowskiFormer U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission; Fellow and Senior Legal Analyst, American Civil Rights Union
The past week has seen political drama over national security. President Obama and former Vice President Cheney have publicly dueled over interrogating terrorists, and Speaker Pelosi is fighting with CIA Director Panetta over the same issue. It's time for President Obama and Speaker Pelosi to deliver the transparency they promised, and let the American people decide who's right.
Vice President Dick Cheney has called out the president over the games being played with national security. Against the objections of four CIA directors serving under both parties, and even his own CIA director, Barack Obama released several classified legal memos on interrogation techniques. These techniques were reserved for the most hardened terrorists who had information that could save American lives. President Obama decided to release the memos anyway, in order to provide "transparency."
Now Dick Cheney has challenged the president to also release the follow-up memos that discuss how valuable the information obtained was to save American lives. According to reports, specific attacks were thwarted, and America was spared what would have been additional tragedies.
If so, there is no reason whatsoever not to release these memos. The damage has already been done by disclosing the methods and techniques. Further disclosure would only flesh out the picture by showing what those methods yielded. Then, and only then, can the American people render a judgment.
So people need to speak out, asking these questions: Why have these results not been released? Why doesn't Barack Obama want the public to know what attacks were prevented, if what Dick Cheney says is true? Is he concerned that the American people will decide that these methods were justified, and that he will look weak for being on the losing end of a national security argument? If there is another explanation, what is it?
Half-measures are not acceptable at this point. President Obama promised transparency. By all means, let's have it.
Similarly, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a lot of explaining to do, but evidently doesn't want to do it. Having railed against the CIA over interrogation, the Speaker overreached when she publicly announced that the CIA is lying about having briefed her.
But instead of being dressed down by a Republican vice president, Speaker Pelosi is being called out by a Democrat who heads the CIA and who was appointed by none other than President Obama! Leon Panetta is declaring that the CIA informed Nancy Pelosi about these matters at the time. In other words, he's saying Speaker Pelosi is lying.
This is serious. The president cannot allow for the Speaker of the House and the director of the CIA to publicly say that the other is lying. This is damaging to national policy, and the president has an obligation to resolve this situation. And with the Speaker's latest statement that she will not comment further and will not retract her accusation that the CIA is lying, the situation continues to fester.
For that reason, a dozen leaders of various organizations, including former Attorney General Ed Meese, have publicly called on Speaker Pelosi to step aside and allow a bipartisan committee to investigate. The Speaker has cast a cloud over the nation's flagship intelligence agency -- and the CIA has returned the favor by casting a cloud over the most powerful member of Congress. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. What did Nancy Pelosi know, and when did she know it?
With both President Obama and Speaker Pelosi, we see the dangers of reckless actions. When the president released those memos, he clearly did not anticipate the widespread outrage that release would generate. Nor did he anticipate the public reemergence of a vice president who is also a former Defense Secretary, and ex-White House chief of staff, a top-notch national security expert and one of the most articulate speakers on the topic.
Likewise, when Speaker Pelosi satisfied her liberal base by vilifying the noble men and women who work to keep America safe at the CIA, she did not anticipate that Leon Panetta, a former fellow Democratic congressman from California and an Obama appointee, would hold a press conference to declare that his officers were telling the truth. Speaker Pelosi hardly expected one of her own colleagues would expose her statements as untrue.
Both Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi promised transparency. We are now only seeing half of the facts on these two important scandals. It's time for them to provide the whole truth.
Ken Blackwell is a former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission and Ken Klukowski is a fellow and senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.