A senior Justice Department official said Tuesday that "99.8 percent" of the department's work with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has gone smoothly. The 0.2 percent snag: The department has reservations about granting the team's request to review classified legal opinions related to secret CIA and National Security Agency programs.
The Justice official said the department was reluctant to provide the opinions to Obama's team without permission from the two intelligence agencies whose activities they address. At the roundtable, Mukasey said OLC opinions are issued at the request of other agencies with their "own equity or interest in the information."
"And so what we try to do is determine whether, and to what extent, we can clear that information and try to do it as quickly as we can so as to get it to the transition team so that they're aware of all the things that they need when they take over on the 21st," Mukasey said, according to a transcript provided by the department.
And which opinions aren't being released? You already know that: those which "contain the legal rationale of the NSA's warrantless spying program and the CIA's detention and interrogation policies, among other intelligence initiatives."
The OLC is the President's legal counsel, and of course if the president wanted that information released, it should be released--the various agencies involved, who supposedly now have their "own equity or interest in the information," have no power to trump the decision of the White House.
So who's preventing the release of this information? Mukasey? Hayden? Are they working together to attempt to keep the Obama transition team in the dark, while pushing the idea that for the sake of "continuity," Hayden should be kept on at the CIA?
The intelligence community is on an all-out offensive to fight change when it comes to torture. Hence their PR offensive that is pushing the theme that there just won't be anyone qualified to run the shop if you take out all of the people who were either involved with or justified torture. It's an argument that at least one Democrat was stupid enough to fall for, and to push on Obama.
It's hopefully an argument Obama ignores. The fact that the administration is stonewalling and obstructing on this front should be enough cause to reject the whole idea of "continuity" when it comes to torture and illegal spying.