Law school professor and torture critic Scott Horton has dropped a bombshell: the Republicans are blackmailing Obama from releasing new torture documents.
Horton points out that:
The memos, authored by then-administration officials and now University of California law professor John Yoo, federal appellate judge Jay Bybee and former Justice Department lawyer Stephen Bradbury, apparently grant authority for the brutal treatment of prisoners, including waterboarding, isolated confinement in coffin-like containers, and “head smacking.”…
Unlike the torture memos that are already public, these memos directly approve specific torture techniques and therefore present a far graver problem for their authors …
Horton also gets into specifics about the blackmail:
The release of the memos that the Senate Republicans want to suppress was cleared by Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counsel Greg Craig, and then was stopped when “all hell broke loose” inside the Obama administration . . .
Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.
The most important part of this story isn’t that the republicans are making threats, but that Obama is caving in to them.