“He thought very long and hard about it, consulted widely, because there were two principles at stake,” Axelrod said . “One is the sanctity of covert operations and keeping faith with the people who do them, and the impact on national security, on the one hand. And the other was the law and his belief in transparency.”
This is all nonsense. First, there is nothing lawful in willingly declassifying classified information. Classified information is classified for a reason. It is not so much that our own citizens can't or shouldn't see it, but that our enemies can't and shouldn't see it. That's why the Bush administration never declassified these memos.
More than that, transparency was never meant for that which is supposed to be secret. What will he declassify next? Will he declassify certain Navy Seals missions in Pakistan? This isn't about transparency but politics. President Obama has decided to stop using all interrogations besides those in the Army Field Manual. On the other hand, he has decided to keep the terrorist surveillance program, the warrantless wiretapping program. Everyone should notice that he isn't very transparent about that program. He has NOT released secret memos spelling out the details of that program.
Of course, he hasn't. If he did, the program would be worthless. Of course, he's keeping that program. So, transparency is a lot less important when it will affect a current program. Logically though, if transparency is a high priority, isn't it more important in a current program rather than one that is discontinued? The president seems to be awfuly selective with when "transparency" is such an issue.
Of course, this has little to do with transparency and everything to do with politics. Releasing these memos allows for his predecessor to be painted as a mean guy. For the first time, we know all that terrible things that he allowed for the CIA to do to Al Qaeda thugs. Furthermore, it allows the current president to draw a distinction. Maybe he'll get some political hey, but frankly playing politics with national security is dangerous, it isn't very presidential, and it ought to be condemned by all.