ThinkFast: April 24, 2009

In the debate over whether to release the OLC torture memos, President Obama faced “one of the sharpest policy divides of his young administration.” On one side was Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and CIA director Leon Panetta; on the other was Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen, White House counsel Gregory Craig, Attorney General Eric Holder, and DNI Dennis Blair.

Since President Obama indicated that he would be open to an investigation into the Bush administration’s authorization of torture, pressure has mounted for a full inquiry. However, the White House and Democratic leadership in the Senate signaled yesterday that “they would block for now any effort” to establish an independent inquiry into the matter.

Last night, the Obama administration agreed to “release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuses” at U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan under the Bush administration. This marks the first time photos from prisons other than Abu Ghraib will be made public. A “substantial number” of photographs are set to be released by May 28.

According to a “previously undisclosed Iraqi government tally” obtained by the Associated Press, at least “87,215 Iraqis have been killed in violence since 2005.” Yesterday, at least “80 people died and 120 others were injured” in three suicide bombings in Iraq.

Congressional Democrats are preparing to “deliver a big gift to President Obama on his 100th day in office: a fiscal 2010 budget resolution that makes room for his top domestic policy priorities.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that “budget negotiators could complete work on a final plan by Monday, clearing a path for House and Senate passage by the middle of next week.”

Then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told then-CIA Director Porter Goss, “to hold off on briefing lawmakers about the conversation” between Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and an Israeli intelligence official. “One reason Mr. Gonzales intervened…was to protect Ms. Harman because they saw her as a valuable administration ally in urging The New York Times not to publish” its 2005 article about warrantless wiretapping.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen said in an interview to be broadcast today that he is “extremely concerned” about the Taliban moving closer to Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad. “We’re certainly moving closer to the tipping point” where Pakistan could be overtaken by Islamic extremists, he said. Mullen added that he feels “events continue to move in the wrong direction” in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The Obama administration is preparing to admit into the United States as many as seven Chinese Muslims who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in the first release of any of the detainees into this country.” But the Homeland Security Department has already “registered concerns about the plan.”

And finally: Dick Cheney and Karl Rove are annoying Meghan McCain. Yesterday, McCain guest-hosted ABC’s “The View” and offered some blunt talk for Rove and Cheney, two of the most prominent critics of the Obama administration. “It’s very unprecedented for someone like Karl Rove or Dick Cheney to be criticizing the president,” McCain said. “My big criticism is just, you had your eight years, go away.”

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