WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA Thursday rejected a request by former Vice President Dick Cheney that it make public documents that he said showed the effectiveness of using harsh interrogation methods on terrorism suspects.
Cheney had asked the agency to declassify two memos that he believes back up his contention that useful intelligence was gained through such methods. The Bush administration authorized the use of waterboarding, sleep and food deprivation and forced nudity as it sought information after the September 11 attacks.
The CIA said the two memos Cheney asked to be made public were relevant to pending litigation.
“For that reason -- and that reason only -- CIA did not accept Mr. Cheney’s request for a Mandatory Declassification Review,” Paul Gimigliano, CIA spokesman, said.
A spokeswoman for Cheney, who has become the most public defender of much of key aspects of George W. Bush’s presidency that ended in January, said he was preparing an appeal.
He has been involved in an increasingly contentious battle with the Obama administration over the interrogation program, whose disclosure prompted international anger and undermined the United States’ reputation around the world.
In one of his first acts as president, President Barack Obama ordered more humane treatment for terrorism suspects.
Obama called waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, a form of torture and has not ruled out prosecution of those Bush administration officials who authorized it.
Cheney criticized Obama’s decision last month to release legal opinions prepared during the Bush administration which justified the use of the techniques, employed against some caught in Bush’s declared war against terrorism after the Sept 11 attacks.
The wrangle over prisoner abuse has embroiled the Speaker of the House (of Representatives), Nancy Pelosi, in a dispute about how much she might have known of the program in advance and drawn Obama into a debate over whether pictures of the abuse should be released.
Obama Wednesday reversed his position and refused to make public dozens of photographs, saying the images could ignite a backlash against U.S. troops.
“The concern was that the release of those photos would have a negative impact on the situation both in Iraq and in Afghanistan,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
“We will have to argue that in court and we are prepared to do that,” he said. Obama’s decision was “consistent with the best interests of our troops,” Holder said.
Human rights activists want a full investigation into the interrogation program and the officials who authorized it.
House (of Representatives) Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, who is pressing for a commission to investigate conduct in Bush’s war against terrorism, said more than a dozen of the committee’s members had suggested appointing a special counsel to investigate the treatment of detainees.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which argued for the release of the photographs, is also pressing for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate the interrogation methods.
Lawmakers also expressed concern to Holder about the possibility that some of the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. Naval base in Cuba where many terrorism suspects are held, could be transferred to the United States.
Representative Lamar Smith, the senior Republican on the committee, said closing Guantanamo Bay where 241 terrorism suspects are held “could endanger American lives.”
He warned that American jails holding terrorism suspects “could become a target for attack by terrorist sleeper cells here and around the world.”
Holder said no final decisions had been made on what to do with the Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
Editing by John Whitesides and David Storey