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A Times Editorial

The unlikeliest civil libertarians

Yes, that was hell freezing over, a cow jumping over the moon and a pig just taking flight. Dick Cheney, heretofore the Howard Hughes of the Bush administration, has become a crusader for open government. Was that a dish running away with a spoon?

It was a vexed former vice president who took great umbrage over the Obama administration's decision to release the top secret Justice Department interrogation memos detailing the government-sanctioned torture of terrorism suspects, including the waterboarding of 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohamed's 183 times.

Cheney and former Bush administration enforcer Karl Rove have experienced their own epiphany. They are calling for the release of all classified CIA documents associated with the interrogations of prisoners in an attempt to validate their argument the torturing of suspects did indeed produce valuable and life-saving intelligence.

For two men who treated transparency and public accountability during their years in office with all the disdain of a child contemplating a plate of cold peas, this sudden conversion to the idea of the full disclosure of sensitive government records is admirable.

Cheney and Rove are quite right. Americans should know exactly what happened to the prisoners and if information gleaned from their interrogations did protect the nation from additional terrorism attacks. These two newly minted civil libertarians also should have no objections to releasing the still-secret memos concerning Cheney's energy task force meetings. Nor should Cheney and Rove be remotely troubled by releasing memos concerning their role in exposing the identity of former CIA covert operative Valerie Plame. And these new champions of the First Amendment ought to be eager to allow public access to records documenting Cheney's role in manipulating intelligence documents to justify the war in Iraq, which has cost more than 4,000 American lives.

So welcome Dick Cheney and Karl Rove into the bright warmth of government in the sunshine. Maybe the moon is made of cheese after all.

The unlikeliest civil libertarians 05/01/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 1, 2009 7:12pm]
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