The Case of the Disappeared Memo

In 2005, Philip Zelikow, a policy adviser to Condoleezza Rice, wrote a memo disagreeing with the conclusions reached by the Office of Legal Counsel as to the legality of the Bush administration’s interrogation program. Of course, the White House had every right to disagree with Zelikow’s disagreement, and ignore it. But that was not the way the Bush White House operated. It wasn’t enough just to ignore dissenting views. Those views had to be eliminated from public awareness, which meant that all evidence that they had ever existed needed to be destroyed:

Cheney’s office was reportedly the hub of the Bush administration’s torture program. And Neil Kinkopf, a law professor at Georgia State University, who served in the Clinton administration’s Office of Legal Counsel, notes, “People in the White House—Dick Cheney for example; David Addington, his legal adviser—didn’t want the existence of dissent to be known. It’s not hard to imagine David Addington playing very hardball internal politics and not only wanting to prevail over the view of Zelikow but to annihilate it. It would be perfectly consistent with how he operated.”

Zelikow, who ran the 9/11 Commission before joining the State Department, wrote in his original blog post that he believed the administration had failed to erase the evidence of his dissent: “I expect that one or two [copies of the memo] are still at least in the State Department’s archives.” And four top congressional Democrats on Monday wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [PDF] and Adrienne Thomas, the acting national archivist [PDF], requesting surviving copies of the Zelikow memo.

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