Sunday, May 17, 2009

Give Cheney what he wants - and more

By DeWayne Wickham

C'mon, Mr. President, do the right thing. Dick Cheney, a late convert to open government, demands that you release secret documents he says support his contention that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration did more good than harm.

The irascible former vice president, who largely shunned journalists during his eight years in the White House, now busies himself attacking you in the media. He claims your decision to stop government agents from using interrogation methods that you've branded as torture puts the nation at risk of another terrorist attack.

And that's not all. Cheney argues that your administration's release of the legal authorization for those techniques, written by Bush administration political appointees in the Justice Department, is an act of petty, partisan politics.

Cheney says there are documents that prove the interrogation techniques you outlawed produced information that helped thwart terrorist plots against the United States after 9/11 - and he wants you to release those papers.

I say do it. Give Cheney what he wants. After all, Mr. President, your position on this issue is quite clear. Waterboarding and other so-called "harsh" interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration amounts to torture - and torture is illegal. Besides, as an FBI interrogator told a congressional committee the other day, there are better, legal methods to get information from terrorists.

So, in the name of open government, let's see those documents Cheney wants you to release - and let's also see a few things he'd hoped would never see daylight.

Release the logs of the visitors to Cheney's vice presidential residence. Give us a list of those who stayed overnight there and dined at taxpayers' expense with Cheney.

Cheney had little regard for the people's right to know when he refused to make that information public. But now that he sees value in releasing government documents to the American people, you should release this information, too.

While you're at it, order the release of all records related to meetings Cheney had with energy industry insiders shortly after he and President George W. Bush - both former energy industry executives themselves - took office in 2001.

Cheney objected to a Freedom of Information Act request for the names of the people who attended those meetings. His legal challenge lasted for years and went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post ultimately revealed who attended the energy task force meetings. But Mr. President, you can give the nation a more complete understanding of the role those people played by releasing the minutes of those meetings. Many of the attendees were big financial contributors to the Bush-Cheney election campaign.

Since Cheney is urging you to release classified information, he shouldn't object to you also throwing in some documents whose only real secret might be his incestuous relationship with the oil industry.

Now that Cheney is out of office - and on the defensive about his role in authorizing waterboarding and other forms of torture on terrorism suspects - he has a better appreciation for open government. Now that he thinks such methods can be justified by the results they produced, he's a champion of transparency.

So, Mr. President, give the public a look at the documents Cheney wants revealed - and at those he fought so hard to keep from the American people.

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