Cheney’s unusual request

CHENEY’S UNUSUAL REQUEST…. Most of Dick Cheney’s chat with Sean Hannity included boilerplate rhetoric, but there was something newsworthy about the former vice president’s claim about still-classified intelligence reports.

As part of his argument about the efficacy of torture, Cheney said there are “reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity,” and he has “formally asked that they be declassified.” Cheney added that he wants to the CIA to “take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was, as well as to see this debate over the legal opinions.”

These comments raised a few questions. For example, it’s not all clear what “formal” request Cheney made to the CIA. He’s a civilian with no authority at all, so what did he do, write Leon Panetta a nice letter? For that matter, what’s the point of the declassification? Even if Cheney could produce instances in which torture led to reliable acquired intelligence, there’s little chance that President Obama is going to say, “You know what? Cheney’s right; committing war crimes isn’t such a bad idea after all.”

But Greg Sargent did a little digging today and found that the CIA apparently hasn’t received any “formal” requests from Cheney.

“The agency has received no request from the former Vice President to release this information,” [an intelligence source familiar with the situation] told me a few moments ago.

Last night, Cheney said he’d asked the CIA to release memos he had read containing all the intelligence that had been collected via torture. “I’ve now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was, as well as to see this debate over the legal opinions,” Cheney said.

According to the source, there are several ways this could happen: Cheney could lodge a Freedom of Information Request (which is hard to imagine a former Veep doing); he could contact CIA officials; or he could submit the request via the White House. Cheney said he’d made the request to the CIA.

But at this point, the claim is at least suspect. And given Dick Cheney’s record of breathtaking dishonesty, it seems safe to wonder if the former vice president just made this up out of whole cloth to impress the Fox News audience.

Better yet, when Greg asked a spokesperson for Cheney, “she categorically refused to explain what Cheney meant when he claimed on Fox News last night that he had ‘formally asked’ the CIA to release intelligence allegedly proving that torture works.”

The spokesperson was willing to say that Cheney made a “formal request” to the CIA “at the end of March,” but when asked about the mechanism for such a request, she had “no comment.”

Cheney doesn’t have to be in office to combine ridiculous secrecy with transparent dishonesty.

Update: Looks like the mystery has been solved. Cheney reportedly requested the release through the National Archives, which in turn contacted the CIA. Greg added, “[W]e have no way of knowing what Cheney actually asked for or whether they really say what Cheney claims. It’s now up to the CIA to make the determination whether to declassify the docs Cheney wants. So this could get very, very interesting in various ways.”

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