Tales from the Trail

Declassified memo anyone?

President Barack Obama’s decision to release memos on the CIA’s use of “enhanced” interrogation methods on terrorism suspects appears to have started a trend in some unexpected quarters.OBAMA/

Former Vice President Dick Cheney,  who used to have his own “undisclosed location” and seemed to thrive on secrecy, is joining the bandwagon to let the sun shine in.

Cheney told Fox News that what bothered him about the disclosure of the legal memos was that they didn’t put out the memos that showed that the interrogations produced a successful result.

“There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity. They have not been declassified,” Cheney said.

BUSH/“I’ve now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify these 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,” he said.

The First Draft: Friday, Jan. 9

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Who gets the billions?

The incoming Obama administration is preparing a major overhaul of the $700 billion financial bailout amid rising complaints in Congress that the payouts are not going to the right people.

The Washington Post reports that Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner and top Obama economic adviser Larry Summers have been looking at ways to broaden the bailout to include more help for homeowners facing foreclosure as well as to generate loans for municipalities, small businesses and consumers — and not just the financial giants that helped to create the mess.

Obama, meanwhile, is expected to formally announce his picks for top intelligence posts at a news conference around 10:45 a.m. EST. Obama’s choice to head the CIA, former chief of staff in the Clinton White House Leon Panetta, has drawn fire from some security insiders who complain that he lacks experience on intelligence matters.

U.S. spy chiefs offer to stay on with Obama

WASHINGTON – It’s not a secret: the top two U.S. spies are offering to stay on for at least a while under president-elect Barack Obama.
 
What remains a mystery, however, is whether the offer by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell and CIA Director Michael Hayden, will be accepted, given their identification with controversial Bush administration policies on electronic spying and treatment of terrorism suspects.
 
The Washington Post reported this week that McConnell and Hayden expected to be replaced early in the Obama administration.
 
McConnell — who gave Obama his first full intelligence briefing last week — told an awards ceremony in Washington on Wednesday that U.S. spy agencies would be in good hands under “the new guys.”
 
“Universally, very-well informed people, very smart, very strategic,” is how he described Obama’s team. “All the signs, at the moment, are positive,” he said.
 
Then came the pitch: “The message that both General Hayden and I have delivered to the incoming administration is, we view ourselves as professionals — as apolitical professionals — and we are available to serve at the pleasure of the president,” McConnell said.
 
“If they ask us to stay for some reason, for a period of time, we would stay and assist them in the transition,” he said.
 
“If they choose others, that’s fine, we’re happy with that; we have other things to do,” he said.
 
McConnell’s position as the U.S. spy chief is new, created under a post-Sept. 11 intelligence reorganization, and like other political jobs has no fixed term. There is, however, some precedent for CIA directors to serve overlapping administrations. George Tenet, a Bill Clinton appointee, remained in office under President George W. Bush until 2004.
 
Hayden has said little about his plans, but also noted in a letter to employees last week that he serves at the pleasure of the president.
 
The Post said influential congressional Democrats opposed McConnell and Hayden’s staying on because they publicly backed Bush policies on interrogation and electronic surveillance.
 
It said, however, other Democrats and many intelligence experts gave high marks to the intelligence leaders for restoring stability and professionalism, and that the Obama camp had given no signs of its plans.
 
McConnell said the Post article had an “alarming headline” but delivered a “reasonable message.”

For more Reuters political stories, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (McConnell, left, and Hayden at a Senate panel hearing Feb. 5)