Obama DOJ continues Bush secrecy on torture
February 9, 2009 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Obama's Justice Department has endorsed its predecessor's claims that the details of the extraordinary rendition program are "state secrets."
posted by Kirth Gerson (148 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
YES WE CAN SECRETLY TORTURE.

C'mon, Obama, you don't just get to campaign on your ideals. You also have to live up to them.
posted by klangklangston at 3:44 PM on February 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Yeah, yeah... he's selling us out! Fssh. Pullleeeze. Wake me up if this is still going on in year 2 of his presidency.

Until then, I'll assume he's doing his best with a craptacular situation.
posted by MeatLightning at 3:52 PM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


C'mon. Deep down, we all knew Obama was gonna play ball.
posted by you just lost the game at 3:52 PM on February 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


What makes this particularly appalling and inexcusable is that Senate Democrats had long vehemently opposed the use of the "state secrets" privilege in exactly the way that the Bush administration used it in this case, even sponsoring legislation to limits its use and scope. Yet here is Obama, the very first chance he gets, invoking exactly this doctrine in its most expansive and abusive form to prevent torture victims even from having their day in court, on the ground that national security will be jeopardized if courts examine the Bush administration's rendition and torture programs -- even though (a) the rendition and torture programs have been written about extensively in the public record; (b) numerous other countries have investigated exactly these allegations; and (c) other countries have provided judicial forums in which these same victims could obtain relief. - Glenn Greenwald
posted by Joe Beese at 3:53 PM on February 9, 2009


Perhaps President Obama is not really clear on just why Bush became so unpopular.

This stuff right here. This is why. You don't want to wind up like him, DON'T BE LIKE HIM. Don't do this to us. You're crapping on our name when you do.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:53 PM on February 9, 2009


A sober treatment
posted by jckll at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ah, pessimism. You save me from hideous disappointment so often!
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:02 PM on February 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Sullivan gets it right: "The argument is that revealing the extent of the man's torture and abuse would reveal state secrets. No shit."
posted by mrgrimm at 4:03 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Keep handing out cash to the banks, empty that treasury, reward your campaign contributors, lie through your teeth, keep those state secrets nice and safe... yeah, change all right.
posted by dbiedny at 4:03 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for that link, cklennon - some much needed perspective there.
posted by CRM114 at 4:03 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


So disappointing. This is Obama working to suppress disclosure of information about American kidnapping and torture-- denying victims their day in court by denying them the ability to gather information about the unlawful acts of the US government.

Put not your trust in princes.
posted by ibmcginty at 4:04 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marc Ambinder's "sober treatment" says
It wouldn't be wise for a new administration to come in, take over a case from a prosecutor, and completely change a legal strategy in mid-course without a more thorough review of the national security implications.
So you know what you, the new administration do? You ask the judge in this case, and the judges in all the similar cases, for time to do a thorough review, and then you do the review. Or maybe they already did the review, and this is the result.

Ambinder comes across as just another Beltway insider.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:04 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


From the link, it seems like the administration is saying that old cases of extraordinary rendition will continue to be classified 'state secrets.' It doesn't say anything about whether or not the program will continue. To me, this seems to be consistent with Obama's repeated assertions that he will 'look to the future, not the past'--i.e. that he won't look into prosecuting anyone in the Bush administration.

If the Obama administration were to declassify aspects of the program so that they could be used as evidence in the Mohamed et. al. v. Jeppesen case, there would probably be no way to avoid trying senior members of the Bush administration, maybe even Bush himself, for war crimes. And Obama clearly doesn't want that. The question of whether Obama is making a sound, pragmatic decision or is displaying cowardice and a shocking lack of concern for the ideals of justice in not going after the Bushies is sure to spark some heated debate, but rational people should be able to admit that the choice between one or the other is morally ambiguous, unlike the choice between 'torture' and 'do not torture.' But let's be clear: this decision is not evidence of Obama coming down on the unambiguously reprehensible side of 'torture;' rather it is evidence that he has come down on the side of 'look to the future, not the past,' a much murkier issue.
posted by notswedish at 4:07 PM on February 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


There's always an excuse for failing to confront evil.
posted by orthogonality at 4:07 PM on February 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


This is not my new bicycle.
posted by Nelson at 4:11 PM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


But let's be clear: this decision is not evidence of Obama coming down on the unambiguously reprehensible side of 'torture;' rather it is evidence that he has come down on the side of 'look to the future, not the past,' a much murkier issue.

If the goal is to protect members of the Bush administration from prosecution, it would be good to know what we're getting back in trade, if (hopefully) anything.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:11 PM on February 9, 2009


"C'mon, Obama, you don't just get to campaign on your ideals. You also have to live up to them."

Remember, Obama is a politician. When do they ever live up to their campaign promises?

He's pointing a finger up the collective noses of the people who bought his Change slogan (ripped wholesale from Ron Paul) and shouting "IN YOUR FACE" with spittle flying!
posted by Sukiari at 4:12 PM on February 9, 2009


The details of the extraordinary rendition program are at this point basically unimportant, given that we all pretty much know at this point what was done, to whom, by who, where, and routed through what airports, right?

Unless we don't. You only assert state secret privilege here if there actually remains a secret to protect. Now, Obama's not got a whole lot of rule of law cred when it comes to GWoT-related information gathering (yes, I'm looking at you, telecom immunity), but he knew that he'd take a hit for this and did it anyway. My assumption: the new guys at Justice got briefed on exactly what had been done by the old guys, and decided, based on that, that what had been done could not see the light of day.

Yep. It's worse than we think. Some undisclosed ally was used for transit. Some undisclosed ally was used for, ah, "interrogation". Flights originated from some undisclosed location in the United States. The program was much, much larger than is presently known. Some other possibility beyond my ability to make an uninformed guess about at one in the morning. Who knows? Not us.
posted by Vetinari at 4:12 PM on February 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


I was really disappointed, though not all that surprised, to see this. It's a deeply wrong decision, but when it's business as usual, what do you expect?
posted by Forktine at 4:14 PM on February 9, 2009


So, what's the new "Surely This...?"
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:15 PM on February 9, 2009


If the goal is to protect members of the Bush administration from prosecution, it would be good to know what we're getting back in trade, if (hopefully) anything.

How about the absence of a huge political conflagration that would consume a large portion of Obama's political capital that he would rather spend in other ways?
posted by notswedish at 4:15 PM on February 9, 2009


"Some undisclosed ally was used for, ah, 'interrogation'"

OK, what do we know?

1. We know that "extraodinary rendition" was used to move prisoners to secret locations
2. We know that Dick Cheney's personal residence was the site of some unusual construction (explosions, tunneling, etc.)
3. We know that Cheney had a "man-sized" safe in his office

I think the only logical conclusion is clear: Cheney personally tortured prisoners in his soundproof underground lair, killed them, cremated them, and kept the ashes in his safe.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:17 PM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


So, what's the new "Surely This...?"

I'm going with "This is not the change I voted for."
posted by Staggering Jack at 4:18 PM on February 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


> Until then, I'll assume he's doing his best with a craptacular situation.

This is already turning into the lefty version of "Blame Clinton!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:19 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


How about the absence of a huge political conflagration that would consume a large portion of Obama's political capital that he would rather spend in other ways?

Possibly. Either way, I just wish he would be more direct about the compromises he is making and why he is making them, in spite of the really quite significant mandate he has been given by the public to rebuild an honest government.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:22 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


WAVY LINES
(SCENE: THE OVAL OFFICE)
Obama: Right, so we'll tell them that this was the policy of the old administration, and that a new day dawns, sunlight kills mold, so forth.

Rahm: Sir, this came in from the CIA. (Gestures to several accordion files full of papers).

Obama: Alright, now let's see... (Opens one up at random) ... what we've got.

Panetta: I'm warning you, it's pretty gr --

Obama: ( GOES SHEET WHITE ) oh dear lord.

Rahm: Totally. And that one's from 2002, when they were testing the water, getting used to the idea sort of thing. Here's one from 2007.

Obama: ( GOES PALER STILL ) Let us never discuss this again.

All: murmurs in agreement.
I hope you know what you're doing, Obama, cause this shit looks catastrophic.
posted by boo_radley at 4:23 PM on February 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


OBAMA'S BEEN PRESIDENT FOR 20 DAYS AND HE HASN'T FIXED EVERYTHING! THIS IS NOT THE CHANGE I VOTED FOR!
posted by stavrogin at 4:24 PM on February 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


Yeah, well, until my dittohead, fully-Hannitized brother-in-law starts talking about how much to his surprise he really likes this Obama fellow and thinks he's doing a bang-up job, I'm not going to get on the bus to Pessimist City.

It's been a month, for Christ's sake. I sincerely doubt they've even had time to figure out what the Bush Administration was up to.
posted by padraigin at 4:25 PM on February 9, 2009


Obama's repeated assertions that he will 'look to the future, not the past'--i.e. that he won't look into prosecuting anyone in the Bush administration.

Today, Patrick Leahy explained why such an approach is an historic mistake, and why inevestigations into the Bush administration are necessary for the future of american governance. I agree with Leahy 100%, and I hope the Obama administration changes its mind on this question.
posted by ornate insect at 4:29 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


So the revolution will not be Obamatized?
posted by blue_beetle at 4:30 PM on February 9, 2009



OBAMA'S BEEN PRESIDENT FOR 20 DAYS AND HE HASN'T FIXED EVERYTHING! THIS IS NOT THE CHANGE I VOTED FOR!


This is my take, too. Relax, guys. Give Obama a chance to, I don't know, be the president or something. This is politics, not alchemy. He's already made amazing strides in the direction of transparency.
posted by CRM114 at 4:30 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Duh, Guantanamo was a honeypot for the press and activists. The real shit was the secret prisons. I doubt they did anything (or held anyone really big) in Guantanamo.

This shit was probably bad and would create massively horrible PR for allies. I'm not saying that not disclosing it is a good idea or anything, but that I could see their motivations and political pressure being too strong.
posted by amuseDetachment at 4:31 PM on February 9, 2009


Top US lawyer warns of deaths at Guantánamo
posted by homunculus at 4:38 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The question of whether Obama is making a sound, pragmatic decision or is displaying cowardice and a shocking lack of concern for the ideals of justice in not going after the Bushies is sure to spark some heated debate, but rational people should be able to admit that the choice between one or the other is morally ambiguous...

I'm not sure I get this comment. It seems to me that it's morally incumbent on Obama to go after the Bushies, and also that it's strategically unwise for him to do so. In one clear sense, then, I'm unwilling to 'admit' that the choice between these evaluations contains any moral ambiguity: he's doing the pragmatic thing, which in this case doesn't coincide with the moral thing. (Have I just exposed my status as an irrational person? Or was your point that, in the current situation, doing the immediately-moral-but-strategically-unwise thing could plausibly be considered an overriding moral imperative?)
posted by Beardman at 4:38 PM on February 9, 2009


It could be three things:

1) Obama turns out to be another disappointing scumbag politician like all the rest and this is the start of many disappointments.

2) Obama realizes that, were the full details disclosed, it would be a political disaster, both domestic (as Congress grinds to a halt while the Justice Department charges the highest levels of the previous administration with war crimes) and foreign (like we find out that Country X had been torturing folks for us, or that Country Y knew about 9/11 in advance). Instead, we move forward because looking back will be demoralizing. He figures he has lost five units of political goodwill, sighs, and moves on, because this is probably the best that one can do.

3) Obama gets a plain white bankers' box affixed with various seals, takes a look inside, and sees photos of Cheney doing blow with someone from Enron off the smoldering genitalia of someone we just released from Gitmo due to a complete lack of evidence, and a secret video of Bush's final day in office where, with the help of a screener DVD and a few burly guys in black suits, he reenacts various scenes from Taken on some hapless "insurgent," realizes that a civil war is a potential result, then sets the box on fire and calls various CIA goons to have his memory of the last few hours wiped. He wakes up and finds an envelope containing a note reading "We're going to keep state secrets secret" in his own handwriting.

Option Number Two is about as good as it can get.
posted by adipocere at 4:44 PM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Perhaps a few things will remain secret for now, perhaps to protect US people abroad or rather for more politically realistic reasons.

But closing Guantanamo and secret prisons would be an accomplishment and a small step towards halting the wrongs committed in our collective name.

It is something to be proud of, and is the change I voted for.
posted by ravelite at 4:46 PM on February 9, 2009


I don't know...the ACLU language is so over the top that I can't make any kind of judgment on what is happening here. We know where Obama is on the issues--particularly in his executive order against torture:
...to study and evaluate the practices of transferring individuals to other nations in order to ensure that such practices comply with the domestic laws, international obligations, and policies of the United States and do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture...

This is an argument in a particular pre-existing case and could very well have no bearing on Obama's policies going forward. And given how the Bush team operated, we don't know that they didn't set up this case such that some kind of reversal at this point would bring actual harm to national security (or as it is defined by the silly tangle of legal crap they pushed through under that banner); it's the kind of shit they pulled for eight years, and I could see that they would enjoy creating this kind of situation.

But whatever the actual situation at this point, it's less than one fucking month since he has come into office, and this degree of micromanagement he's faced so far--by a public that didn't as much as whimper when Bush took office and immediately made everything a secret--is unprecedented and ridiculous.
posted by troybob at 4:48 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


By an expected turn of our history, a bit of the truth, an insignificant part of the whole, was allowed out in the open. But those same hands which once screwed tight our handcuffs now hold out their palms in reconciliation: "No, don't! Don't dig up the past! Dwell on the past and you'll lose an eye."

But the proverb goes on to say: "Forget the past and you'll lose both eyes."
- Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
posted by Joe Beese at 4:51 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


State secrets privilege is premised on a lie: that the courts are not capable of handling classified evidence in closed chambers. How do we know this is a lie? Because that's what most other countries in the world do. Countries with actual secrets to protect that aren't pure CYA garbage, like Israel, handle it this way.

It's also time to learn the real lesson from U.S. v. Reynolds: this doctrine isn't being used to protect the country. It's being used to insulate people who are liable (criminally liable in this case, civilly liable in the Reynolds case) from the consequences of their actions. Reynolds was a lie. This is a lie. You don't end impunity by increasing impunity. You don't fix the law by breaking the law.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:52 PM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Obama has been shown "The Film"
posted by pianomover at 4:56 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Please keep in mind that it's impossible to like everything someone does.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:58 PM on February 9, 2009


If the Obama administration were to declassify aspects of the program so that they could be used as evidence in the Mohamed et. al. v. Jeppesen case, there would probably be no way to avoid trying senior members of the Bush administration, maybe even Bush himself, for war crimes. And Obama clearly doesn't want that.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

There's not much else to add. The ACLU is doing its job, more power to them. But Obama has made the choice some time ago not to put the Bush administration on trial for war crimes. Agree or disagree with him, this is just a corollary of that decision by Obama. He knows Bush and his people committed obvious war crimes; he doesn't want to put them in a cage. I doubt President Hillary -- or President Biden, or any other major Democrat who ran in '08, if elected -- would have done otherwise. Is Obama right? I don't know. Also, I'm not a politician, he is. Politics and ethics, obviously, don't exactly -- to be polite -- walk together much of the time.

Now, if President Strongmanko Badassovitch from Somewherovistan had committed the same actions the Bush administration committed -- torture, kidnappings, a fraudulent unprovoked invasion, etc. -- he'd already be in a cage at the Hague. Even ignoring the fact that the US does not recognize the Hague's authority, and by US law it will invade Holland in case Americans are arrested and taken there, well, there's this sort of gentleman's agreement since the post-WWII era that a certain list of countries -- for brevity, what's now is NATO plus a handful of other countires, generally populated by a majority of white people -- well this club has sort of given itself the title of "civilized" world, and civilized world leaders don't end up at some sort of Nuremberg for their war crimes (consider McNamara admitted quite freely that the firebombing of Tokyo had been a war crime. Dresden? There's a strong case there, too. The nice American GIs who sent Japanese skulls home as war souvenirs? Looks bad now). It's not just an American thing. What about Blair. The 45 minutes claim?That looks bad, too, no?

Obama has essentially chosen to keep this tradition alive, and not to investigate Bush and his henchmen, who will get away with it. Justice? No. But maybe it's good politics, we'll see. The Democrats decided in mid-2006 not to pursue impeachment for Bush -- despite what most of us hoped to see -- and went on to take Congress back in '06 and destroy the Republicans in '08 (compare this to 1998 Republicans who just tried -- against all logic, but for the joy of their base -- to remove Clinton, impeached him, humiliated him as their base collectively came in a payback-for-Nixon monster orgasm, failed to remove him from office, lost the 1998 midterm vote, the 2000 congressional vote went bad for them and they even lost the 2000 Presidential election, until the SCOTUS stole it for them of course). So this Bush-doesn't-go-to-jail does seem to pay, politically, for now.

Justice, of course, is entirely another matter.

Consider also how fucking happy Sarah Palin's tirades against the America-hating parts of America made the GOP's base. Consider that, for all the red meat she threw the base, now she is back to Alaska, without fancy hairstylists and fancy clothes, cooking moose stew and trying to make sure one of her underage daughters doesn't end up pregnant again. Obama, and Biden, are in the White House.

Obama strikes me as someone who is very, very wary of throwing red meat to his base. It's beside the point to discuss whether or not he'd cream himself watching Cheney on CNN being led to the dock at the Hague in a orange jumpsuit the way, frankly, a lot of us would. Obama just strikes me as someone more calculating than that. Whether he's right or wrong about the effect this stuff will have, I don't know. Everybody's going on and on and on about how Lincolnesque his temperament is. I disagree. As canny a politician Lincoln was, Obama strikes me more as someone in total FDR mode -- not just cool but stone cold, someone for whom politics isn't personal, and strategy trumps principle every step of the way. Maybe he's not even that good a man. I know FDR wasn't, particularly. I just hope Obama is successful in the very few big goals he has in mind, the economy, the war -- putting Bush and Cheney in jail are not among those priorities.

I mean, FDR was far from a Klansman, but when he realized he couldn't keep his coalition intact if he pushed against segregation -- and even lynchings -- he dropped the issue like a hot potato. He wanted the New Deal, and then to beat Hitler. Civil rights? He dropped them despite his not being a racist fuck like most of his Southern congressional delegation (and segregation later ended, unsolved, on poor Jack Kennedy's desk, and finally, on LBJ's two decades after FDR's death -- how many blacks were lynched or otherwise victimized during those 20 years?). We still consider FDR the man who saved America from abject poverty and the world from Hitler. And rightly so.
posted by matteo at 5:00 PM on February 9, 2009 [27 favorites]


When the need arises--and it does--you must be able too shoot your own dog. Don’t farm it out--that doesn’t make it nicer, it makes it worse. --Lazarus Long

GWB was a horrible president...but he was willing to "shoot his own dog."
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:00 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone who has been paying attention should know that the Prez has made it clear that he considers going after the Bush Administration immediately to be a poor use of his political capital, what with all the massive piles of problems there are to deal with already.
I'm not going to offer a value judgement on this position, but it's not a new position and I'm not sure why people are flipping their wigs.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 5:00 PM on February 9, 2009


There could be allies in foreign lands whose lives might be put at risk by divulging too much. Or any number of similar problems. Political problems, even. I don't have enough information to judge the merits of this either way, really. Obviously, I'd *like* to have a Top Secret clearance and be privy to everything, but with my pot-smoking past, I suspect the odds of that ever happening aren't all that good. *puff puff*
posted by jamstigator at 5:02 PM on February 9, 2009


(Dresden was of course destroyed by the Brits, still the argument is the same)
posted by matteo at 5:02 PM on February 9, 2009


GWB was a horrible president...but he was willing to "shoot his own dog."

Nah, he shot dogs he only pretended were his. And cats. And chickens. And goats. And whales. They could have had WMD!
posted by Foosnark at 5:14 PM on February 9, 2009


We've kicked this around already ("Surely this..." times a bazillion). There wasn't any serious public appetite to impeach/prosecute Bush & Cheney... and there still isn't, as far as I can tell.

Yes I'm disappointed that Obama isn't going to expose the dirty details of the renditions. I still have faith that he isn't going to continue them, or torture. I'm still giddy that Gitmo is closing, actually.
posted by Artful Codger at 5:14 PM on February 9, 2009


GWB was a horrible president...but he was willing to "shoot his own dog."

I don't understand. Wasn't that the whole point of extraordinary rendition? That the U.S. would outsource its "dog killing"?
posted by mrgrimm at 5:15 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


arcanecrowbar: "I'm not going to offer a value judgement on this position"

I respectfully ask: Why not?

Because I can't think of any answer to that question that doesn't amount to either "The Leader must know what he's doing" or "The end justifies the means" - both of which, let us remember, were popular among Bush apologists as he blithely consigned innocent people to torments which you and I can't bear to even fully imagine.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:29 PM on February 9, 2009


I'm watching Obama's presser (on the economy) right now. First reaction: he's a lot braver than Bush to be accepting press questions. But, he sees to be floundering a bit.
posted by orthogonality at 5:30 PM on February 9, 2009


There wasn't any serious public appetite to impeach/prosecute Bush & Cheney... and there still isn't, as far as I can tell.

Not that I think the public appetite should be the deciding factor here, but wouldn't this public appetite be potentially significantly changed by the release of these secrets? Don't you think (or at least hope) that the citizens of the USA might want Bush and Cheney impeached once the truth comes out?
posted by ssg at 5:38 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Darth Rahm finds your lack of faith disturbing.
posted by codswallop at 5:39 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Soviet America, secret states you!
posted by telstar at 5:44 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Don't you think (or at least hope) that the citizens of the USA might want Bush and Cheney impeached once the truth comes out?

Well, impeachment means removing a government official from office. So that's already happened...

Criminal convictions are unlikely, I think. Well, especially since Obama isn't going to pursue them, but the standard of evidence is a lot higher than it is for impeachment + removal.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:48 PM on February 9, 2009


...compare this to 1998 Republicans who just tried -- against all logic, but for the joy of their base -- to remove Clinton...

OK, let's compare:

On the on hand, we have kidnapping, torture, ignoring Habeus Corpus, and starting an unnecessary war under false pretenses that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

On the other hand, we have . . . . .a blowjob.

How many times do you need this pointed out to you?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:52 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I respectfully ask: Why not?

Because although I think Obama is fundamentally right about this, I have a great deal of sympathy for those who would like to see immediate prosecutions. Plus I've been a big enough Obama fanboy on this site already.

I predict there will be hearings, even prosecutions of various high-level Bush officials within the next four years. I doubt that Bush himself will face any serious charges, but who knows? I'll be glad to see action taken, but it will probably be initiated by the congress and not the President. My personal moral judgement is yeah, Bush and many of his cronies should be punished for their criminal acts.

However, I've been following Obama's speeches for the past year, and anyone who was hoping he would launch a major investigation into recent American war crimes within his first month in office, when we haven't even figured out exactly how to end the war, well, I can't square that with anything I've heard him say.

There's a lot of legislation to pass, and it will be hard enough to do even with an overwhelming Dem majority (witness the recent stimulus package wars). Do we really want to further alienate the already-suspicious Republican base in the wee early hours of this presidency by launching an all-out massive "Trial of the Century" media circus against George W. Bush? Some of us might. All I'm saying is Obama never said he was going to do that.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 5:54 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


i just want to add, from Glenn Greenwald, that the NYT's opined that this case was a situation where 'state secrets' priviledge was being abused by the Bush administration.

don't put lipstick on the pig here. Obama needs to feel pain over this, with Bush it was pissing up a rope, but Obama is sensitive to pressure and he needs to feel it. he needs to have another 'i screwed up' moment.

unfortunately we can't rely on congressional republicans as with Daschle.
posted by geos at 5:58 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


OMG. BUSHITLEROBAMA!!!

Fuck me. Are we really going to do this?

But Obama has made the choice some time ago not to put the Bush administration on trial for war crimes.

As much as I'd like to see that happen, that would set a ridiculous banana republican precedent. I think if it's done the right way (possibly through Leahy's effort mentioned in the press conf) then we might see it, but it's doubtful. As bad as Bush was, he still had nearly 30% of the country backing him right up to the bitter end. These might be the worst 30% in the land, but it's a huge number. If the administration were to go at the Bushites, it would be seen as a partisan purge by the press and by the history books, regardless of the egregious transgressions of the previous administration.

Yeah, it makes me sick that they're going to get away with it, but I frankly don't see any other way.
posted by psmealey at 6:02 PM on February 9, 2009


Do we really want to spend the next 3 years impeaching president bush? How about using the threat of dragging the whole republican party through a judicial gauntlet to get shit passed until such a time comes as we can in fact crucify them without threatening the economic structure of our entire civilization?
posted by Freen at 6:08 PM on February 9, 2009


I'd love to see the Bush guys prosecuted, but not at the expense of everything else Obama is trying to accomplish, and all the screwed-up stuff he has to fix. Were they to go in for full-scale truth hearings and prosecutions, that would take over completely and destroy any cooperation between the parties that Obama needs. How fair is it that he should use his time and energy to fix yet another mess that he had nothing to do with creating and, as demonstrated, that he has no intention of preserving?

I'd rather see Limbaugh's fears realized: let it be prosecuted in the press. If they can't find their way back to investigative journalism, or any story that it is not handed to them as a press release, it is to their shame, not the guy who has to deal with the pressures of the present day.
posted by troybob at 6:29 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I fully support the ACLU, but I'm not sure I'm going to get the full picture from reading a press release. Post is a little thin, sorry.
posted by Amanojaku at 6:38 PM on February 9, 2009


arcanecrowbar: "anyone who was hoping he would launch a major investigation into recent American war crimes within his first month in office, when we haven't even figured out exactly how to end the war, well, I can't square that with anything I've heard him say."

Launch a major investigation? I'd have settled for him not actively preventing one. But style points for doing so by repeating Bush's identical, fraudulent claims. As a "fuck you" to the liberal base that gave him momentum against Hillary in the primaries, that would be hard to top.

Should we be surprised by Obama making himself an accessory after the fact to Bush's crimes? No. But that doesn't make it any less despicable.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:38 PM on February 9, 2009


Should we be surprised by Obama making himself an accessory after the fact to Bush's crimes?

Bullshit on this kind of overstatement. It is not Obama's responsibility to prosecute a set of crimes that he did not commit and that nobody dared touch while Bush was in office, and in the process sacrifice his ability to manage what has become a crisis situation.
posted by troybob at 6:45 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is not Obama's responsibility to prosecute a set of crimes that he did not commit and that nobody dared touch while Bush was in office, and in the process sacrifice his ability to manage what has become a crisis situation.

Is it his responsibility to make a special effort to ensure that the criminals get away with it?
posted by stammer at 6:58 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


troybob: " It is not Obama's responsibility to prosecute a set of crimes that he did not commit and that nobody dared touch while Bush was in office, and in the process sacrifice his ability to manage what has become a crisis situation."

Bullshit on false equivalency. The story is not about a passive failure to prosecute. It is about an active obstruction of justice. Which is a moral and statutory crime even in a ruined economy.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:03 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Everyone who voted for Obama should receive free the next Weezer album and a concert ticket, so they can learn to recognize disappointment.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 7:13 PM on February 9, 2009


I agree that it doesn't look good. I think several of the commenters above had it right in that whatever is in these court documents probably implicates the CIA in some insanely heinous shit - even moreso than the things we already know about. This quote from the SFGate is pretty ominous:

'Once the judges privately examine the government's classified evidence, Letter said, "you will see that this case cannot be litigated."'

Is it disappointing that Obama is not going to throw open the doors of the CIA's closets tomorrow and hang the lot of them? Kind of, sure. Would doing that be the smartest and best thing for the country right at this moment? I don't personally think so. Can we please give the guy his 100 days before calling him Bush II?
posted by arcanecrowbar at 7:19 PM on February 9, 2009


It is about an active obstruction of justice.

You don't know this at all. There could very well be a state secrets issue here, not least on the basis of whatever Bush & Co. (who had this case at its inception) heaped on the case in their handling of it; what better way to claim state secrets than to inject actual state secrets into the case?

What is silly is that we know that Obama has opposite views on torture and rendition than Bush did, and we have no reason to doubt his sincerity on them, yet phrases like active obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact are the first things you jump to when discussing a case you have no real means of assessing and which, if it is like any other nontrivial legal matter, probably has arguments and outcome that have more to do with code, procedure, and legal subtlety than with whatever grand, clumsy statement the press and commentators want to force upon it. Really, check out any major media story on a significant Supreme Court decision, and you will invariably encounter a simplistic assessment that barely resembles the complex and subtle legal arguments actually in play.
posted by troybob at 7:32 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the on hand, we have kidnapping, torture, ignoring Habeus Corpus, and starting an unnecessary war under false pretenses that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
On the other hand, we have . . . . .a blowjob.
How many times do you need this pointed out to you?


It doesn't matter. If the war criminals were prosecuted, either here or in the Hague, the Republicans would start a massive shitstorm about how Obama and the Democrats (hmm, not a bad band name) were actively trying to punish those saintly types who wanted nothing but to prevent Americans from being killed by terrorists, and were helping said America-hating terrorists to win the war. And millions of Americans would eat that shit up.

Those among the electorate who are criminally stupid empower those among the elected who are just plain criminal. It's the same all over the world.
posted by oaf at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


troybob: "You don't know this at all. There could very well be a state secrets issue here"

Given that Obama seems determined to keep us in our fact-deprived state, I can only observe that what seemed like a transparent, self-serving lie when Bush uttered it sounds no more credible when identically uttered by the current President - even if he is pro-choice and otherwise groovy.

we know that Obama has opposite views on torture and rendition than Bush did


We knew that Obama had opposite views on warrantless wiretaps too. Until he didn't any more.

the complex and subtle legal arguments actually in play.


Yes, John Yoo had a fine grasp of those.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:53 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


It is too bad people are disappointed, but until you can find a single piece of rhetoric from the campaign where Obama specifically said he would not do this, they don't have much right to be. "Change" is not specific enough. So far, Obama has been pretty much doing exactly what he said he would do. All the "disappointments" have been things that people read into his words that he wasn't actually saying.
posted by one_bean at 7:53 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The question of whether Obama is making a sound, pragmatic decision or is displaying cowardice and a shocking lack of concern for the ideals of justice in not going after the Bushies is sure to spark some heated debate, but rational people should be able to admit that the choice between one or the other is morally ambiguous

What? If we are talking about morality, then soundness and pragmatism do not enter into it - these are prudential considerations that have no bearing on moral right or wrong. There is no ambiguity because the left-hand side of that "or" isn't a moral principle that might be a counter to the right-hand side.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:58 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Given that Obama seems determined to keep us in our fact-deprived state, I can only observe that what seemed like a transparent, self-serving lie when Bush uttered it...

Well, that's the other aspect of the criticism I don't get. Among Bush's first efforts when he took office was to close off avenues of information and transparency, shutting out the media such that they were so grateful for any morsel that they remained uncritical. (And that was before he even knew the name Bin Laden and could grab onto the national security rationalization.) Right away, Obama takes off those restrictions and encourages agencies to be as open as possible; he answers questions from real people who are not pre-screened supporters; he opens himself up to the kinds of criticism that Bush was immune from by rejecting the attitude that nobody else matters and his word is final. And yet the argument is that he's as unethical, even criminal, as Bush; and that argument is reached mere weeks after he takes office.

I get that there are people who aren't going to be happy until they see the Bush administration in handcuffs, and I wouldn't exactly mourn that, except to the extent that Republicans would be looking forward to any excuse to reciprocate. But there are other officials, other branches of government, who before Obama took office had this responsibility, and it's shitty that now it somehow defaults to the new guy.
posted by troybob at 8:21 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This means fuck all. He doesn't have a new head of the CIA in place yet, and Eric Holder was sworn in as head of Justice last week.

Also, he's ordered a review of all state's secrets claims. It would be incredibly irresponsible for him to jump in and start overturning cases without knowing the facts. This guy was already tortured, the damage is done. Let's not do more damage by rushing through this.
posted by empath at 8:23 PM on February 9, 2009


Do you think we ought to give the guy a chance to get his feet under him before hammering him? And what troybob said.
posted by sfts2 at 8:25 PM on February 9, 2009


And, btw, I think I've said multiple times that I want to see Bush tried for treason and war crimes, so do't put me in the "don't prosecute" camp.

If I were President right now, my official position would be that we should kind of fix things and move on. My unofficial position would be to gradually let stuff leak out through truth commisions, etc, until i was 'forced' to appoint a prosecutor.

Just going after Bush full bore right away would seem petty and politically motivated. Most people don't understand why its necessary. We need to make them understand.

Please, put pressure on to do something about it, but I don't think hopeless cynicism is warranted at this point.
posted by empath at 8:28 PM on February 9, 2009


Panetta testified unambiguously before congress during his confirmation that Obama will not continue the practice of extraordinary rendition in his administration.

It seems pretty obvious to me Obama's just not interested in using this particular case to reexamine the misdeeds of the past. (In case you hadn't noticed, he's got his hands full with the Great Depression II knocking on the door and the Repugnicans in congress pulling out every trick in the book to keep him from getting his administration fully up and running, and to cast his every move into suspicion, while even those who should be his supporters seem hell-bent on helping them get their way.)

In his press conference tonight, when asked if he would support Leahy's Truth and Reconciliation committee proposal, not only did he not dismiss it, he even left the possibility of criminal prosecutions as an outcome of that process open.

Just take a chill pill, and realize that the game plan on the part of the dead-enders who supported Bush and were virulently set against the Obama administration before it ever began are going to do everything in their power to throw up roadblocks and prematurely derail any policy-making pushes that take time to get right because that's their last remaining trump card: exploiting the left's restless impatience and seemingly infinite capacity for turning on its own.

They don't have to do anything at all constructive to win the game against Obama. All they have to do is stir up so much fuss about so many different "issues" that the administration has to spend its entire tenure running around from one fire to the next. The Obama administration, unlike Bush's, doesn't really have the media in its pocket. That's just the current media storyline so that it'll seem more plausible as they gradually begin to turn on him.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:31 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Keep handing out cash to the banks, empty that treasury, reward your campaign contributors, lie through your teeth, keep those state secrets nice and safe... yeah, change all right.

Hey, I was a campaign contributor! Feel free to hand out those rewards! The bumper sticker is nice and all, though.

Anyway, I'm not sure why anyone would be surprised, and I don't think anyone is, except maybe Andrew Sullivan.

That said, we don't know exactly what Obama is going to do here. If he's going to just suppress everything forever, that's a problem. If he's planning on releasing the information in an organized way, which might be preferable to simply letting it all come out in legal cases right away. By the way the same "Senate Democrats" who passed FISA and the Protect America act would never have done anything about the state secrets act, so the fact they were 'considering' it is really immaterial.

I think this stuff needs to get out there, and within a reasonable timeframe, but I don't know if it needs to come out this week.
posted by delmoi at 9:47 PM on February 9, 2009


There is no way they are not going to assert this privilege in the first weeks of the Administration. They probably don't have the politicals with clearances to even know what secrets are being protected.

They're going to have to balance keeping key secrets with justice for individuals hundreds of more times. It isn't always going to be on one side or the other. Remember, bin Laden learned the Clinton Administration was eavesdropping on his mobile phone through a US court filing.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:50 PM on February 9, 2009


I happen to think that renditions and secret jails are quite well-suited to the type of war the US should have been fighting since September 11. The rushed, imprecise response was an embarrassing misuse of American lives and materiel, supported by a shocked and deluded society that screamed for blood while gleefully accepting tax cuts and the service of an all-volunteer military.

Toppling the Taliban was admirable enough - they were an incredibly repressive regime - but in getting rid of them the US removed an antagonist to Iran only to replace it with the government of Hamid Karzai, who has not had much success at all. His job really may be an impossible one for a democratically elected official. That's right folks, democracy is not the answer. It's an answer to a question that's asked only by a society ready for it. You can't make them to order, period. Bush learned that when Hamas began winning elections in Palestine. And let's not forget: Afghanistan has been a veritable graveyard for invading armies for a long, long, long time.

Iraq was a total disaster of leadership. Absolutely should not have happened. Hussein was bad, no argument, but fear of his regime was the glue that held together a fragmented society. Most Americans don't understand the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'ite, but it matters. We created an even bigger power vacuum in Iraq than we did in Afghanistan, and again we removed a buffer to Iran in the process. As Iran grows more powerful the royal family of Saudi Arabia (our supposed ally) is getting very, very uneasy. Saudis follow a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam, and they don't really like a predominantly Shi'ite Iran meddling in Middle East affairs. Iran's proxy army, Hezbollah, has proved to be quite shrewd in its takeover of Lebanese society and politics. Syria takes orders from Tehran, and Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq lived in exile with many of his Shi'ite colleagues in Iran during the Hussein years. The holy sites of Islam are also spread throughout the region, increasing the animosity between the two sects. The Saudi's control over Mecca is a particular sore point for Shi'ites and especially Iran. The US has created a situation where it will have to balance its interaction between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its support for Israel so as to avoid a potential arms race or an escalation in Sunni-Shi-ite conflicts. Who knows what happens if Iran builds and tests a nuclear bomb. There's serious trouble brewing, and while the war in Iraq was not the cause, it certainly was a powerful catalyst.

People like to compare the attacks on 9.11.01 to Pearl Harbor because of the fairly similar number of casualties and the seemingly complete level of tactical surprise achieved by the enemy. That's misreading the situation badly, in my view. The war we are fighting now shouldn't have ever been a war at all. The US shouldn't declare war on non-state actors, especially not those for whom violent conflict is a rite of passage into the upper echelons of leadership. Declaring a "Global War on Terror" was the most ham-handed, irresponsible decision of Bush's presidency. It lends such legitimacy to these groups when Americans in uniform are shipped off to respond to the actions of a relatively small number of people. If the president was willing to go all the way, as it seems he was, he would have been much better served by authorizing targeted rendition and/or assassination of certain individuals, on a completely covert basis. Kill or imprison those known to be complicit in the planning, funding or execution of terrorist acts, and do it quietly. Bringing bin Laden in chains to the Hague or to the US for a public trial would be an absolutely disastrous strategic mistake, as would reports of his death at the hand of a brigade of US troops. The right decision is a tough one, but it would have been far less costly in all respects.

So much of what has happened was unnecessary and in fact counterproductive to US goals. It has lent publicity and legitimacy to insurgent terrorist groups around the world. The image the US projected as a benevolent custodian of a volatile region was debased until it resembled nothing more than the caricatures that fill the jihadi propaganda. An aggressive, targeted, covert response was the right course of action, and is still a useful tool against an enemy whose nature is closer to a drug trafficking network than a national government. Go after the leadership, the safe havens, the money, the resources, the ability to recruit, etc. The hunt for and eventual killing of Pablo Escobar is a good example of such an operation. The Mossad's hunt for the perpetrators of the Munich massacre in'72 is as well. For those who still have moral qualms about assassinations and renditions and such, that is commendable but unrealistic. I'm sure President Obama, during the course of his national security briefings, came to the conclusion that rendition is a valuable, if extreme, tactic in a war against an intractable and at times irrational enemy.
posted by kurtroehl at 10:09 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm sure President Obama, during the course of his national security briefings, came to the conclusion that rendition is a valuable, if extreme, tactic in a war against an intractable and at times irrational enemy.

No one is talking about rendition, a legal term which simply means moving someone from one jurisdiction to another. What people are talking about is torture. Since you don't actually even understand the terms actually mean, or what this case is about, or whatever, it's hard to take your opinion seriously.
posted by delmoi at 10:21 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


First of all, this podcast by Glen Greenwald is essential to understanding what's going on here. Most of you have very poor comprehension of the situation. This is not a matter of sensitive information potentially being leaked, this is simply a civil suit that the Bush administration blocked with a radical new use of "states secrets," a case which was already investigated by other countries.

To quote from the interview:

Ben Wizner: "In fact, just a couple of months ago, the Swedish government agreed to pay Ahmed Agiza $450,000 for its secondary role in the CIA's rendition of Agiza to Egypt. So there's no real secret involved here. Nothing would be revealed by allowing Agiza to go forward in a case against the CIA, because Jeppesen's role is public, because Sweden's role is public, and because Egypt's role is public--he's in an Egyptian prison right now."

Agiza is one of the five plaintiffs in the ACLU's lawsuit that Obama intervened to prevent today. This case has already been actually presented in a court of law in other countries. Whatever "secrets" the administration claims it must hide, they aren't secrets. Here, the states secrets privilege is simply being used to prevent Bush's friends from being sued in a US court - nothing more. And Obama is apparently fine with that.
posted by mek at 10:25 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obamania is just a way for the American people to forgive themselves. Nothing new about that. Sad.
posted by Chuckles at 10:31 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here, the states secrets privilege is simply being used to prevent Bush's friends from being sued in a US court

Well, to be fair, whether they are Bush's friends or not is probably irrelevant. It is probably about preventing a lawsuit against the CIA. Tools of empire, and all that..
posted by Chuckles at 10:38 PM on February 9, 2009


God bless Glenn Greenwald for doing what he does, but I think he wouldn't have been happy with anything short of summarily executing Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld on the way out.
posted by empath at 11:00 PM on February 9, 2009


Agiza is one of the five plaintiffs in the ACLU's lawsuit that Obama intervened to prevent today.

You have no idea what he did or didn't do. The federal government does lots of shit without involving the President of the United States in the decision making process.
posted by empath at 11:02 PM on February 9, 2009


You have no idea what he did or didn't do. The federal government does lots of shit without involving the President of the United States in the decision making process.

Obama personally? We don't know. But we do know is that Obama's appointees at the justice department, under Eric Holder, looked at this and specifically decided to continue with the same arguments.
posted by delmoi at 11:15 PM on February 9, 2009


And this is why... i'm really glad the "economic stimulus" bill considered is really shitty and won't do the job, and the US is headed for 15 years of stagflation à la Japan. You richly deserve it.

(yes, i know i won't be spared by the fallout, but hey. Sometimes you have to sacrifice for the grater good).
posted by vivelame at 1:48 AM on February 10, 2009


putting Bush and Cheney in jail are not among those priorities

I think it goes further than this. Because if he just didn't care, he could simply let loose a thousand hounds of Hades from every corner of the continent on both of their very sorry asses. There are plenty of people that would happily dedicate their lives and professional careers putting that entire thieving family into a hole buried so deep into the earth that you could use it for spent nuclear fuel. He's laying off either because he's afraid of how much credibility the United States will lose (a metric ass-load), or he simply likes the power and doesn't want to give it up.

I don't blame him. Once empire took hold in Rome, plenty of emperors had the chance to go back to the days of the Senate—back to democracy. The only one who ever walked away from it was Aurelius, but by then it was too late.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:46 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those among the electorate who are criminally stupid empower those among the elected who are just plain criminal. It's the same all over the world.

Is that not what you are doing, with your excusing the endorsement of Bush's expansion of government secrecy?



Also, he's ordered a review of all state's secrets claims. It would be incredibly irresponsible for him to jump in and start overturning cases without knowing the facts. This guy was already tortured, the damage is done. Let's not do more damage by rushing through this.

As I said, there's nothing stopping the DoJ from asking for a continuance to do that review.

Do you actually endorse the position that "the damage is done" in a crime like this? Do you apply that to other crimes, or only to ones committed in your name by your government? If there's any damage being done by rushing, it's the DoJ doing it, by rushing to reaffirm this "State Secrets" position.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:06 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


missing tag: changiness
posted by gsb at 4:18 AM on February 10, 2009


You richly deserve it.

And you, personally, far more.
posted by oaf at 4:46 AM on February 10, 2009


And why? Because endorsing that sort of thing as a collective punishment is morally equivalent to endorsing Israel's punitive actions in Gaza and Russia's in Chechnya.
posted by oaf at 4:51 AM on February 10, 2009


God, I am so over this attitude of WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW, OBAMATONS every time the guy does something that is not met with sparkles and unicorns and rainbows. Being president sucks, and it means making decisions that are not going to be popular. Welcome to the very messy reality of running a country.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:04 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't blame me, I voted for Perfect!

Impeach President Good!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:21 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being president sucks, and it means making decisions that are not going to be popular.

You honestly think this is about popularity? It isn't. It's about doing the hard stuff now, so shitty things don't happen in the future the way they did in the recent past. If anything, this decision by DoJ is bowing to the view that's popular inside the Beltway. It's taking what seems in that village to be the easy way. Down the road, it encourages the next batch of amoral pricks who get into the White House to do what Bush did, or worse.

What illegality does a President have to endorse before he's made to face the music? These acts of kidnapping and torture were not an aberration - they were government policy approved at the highest level.

Ending this disgusting perversion of American ideals is precisely the change I voted for, more than any other thing. Forgive me if I'm deeply disappointed that the new Justice Department is so resistant to changing the policies that have obstructed justice for the last eight years.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:30 AM on February 10, 2009


Glenn Greenwald has another post on this topic. Turns this was actually something Obama campaigned against last year.
posted by delmoi at 7:16 AM on February 10, 2009


I've being hearing "give him a chance" for over three months now - ever since he made a 180 on the FISA bill.

While he's been fine on "appointing competent people", in terms of "preventing the US's ongoing criminality" he has scored a D in my book.

He closed Guantanamo Bay. Well, announced that it would be closed at some point in the future. There was nothing else that could have been done - and it's still absolutely unclear that everyone incarcerated will get a trial or be released - but I'm glad.

But in those three months, he's appointed hundreds of people. Precisely zero opponents of the Iraq war were included in these appointments. True centrists like Howard Dean were forced to leave politics because there was simply no place for them. We're continuing to spy on law-abiding Americans. We're escalating the war in Afghanistan. There's still no plan to get out of Iraq but the Administration is talking about 2011. And there's strong evidence that Mr. Obama is not going to uphold the Constitution as he swore a month ago he would, that he's going to allow the members of the previous administration to be charged for the war crimes that they publicly admitted to having committed.

He's appointed a TV doctor who thinks that pot is akin to heroin and we're going to continue the War on Drugs which, as you know, has resulted in a higher percentage of Americans in jail, particularly black American males, than in any other Western democracy (and more than quite a few dictatorships and centrally planned economies too!)

On the economic front, his economic advisers are drawn from precisely the people that caused this economic collapse in the first place. There are no plans to get back the "bailout money" that was instantly paid out in bonuses (and this is absolutely a felony) or even any evidence that these individuals are going to be punished or inconvenienced in the slightest; and the "compromise" in the current stimulus plan removed only portions of it that would help the actual people who are deepest in need.

That last one really rankles. He has huge political capital here. If the Republicans prevent the stimulus bill, their names are shit. He could easily have stood up to them and said, "No, I will not remove the sections of this bill that will help the people who need it the most." He did not, he completely caved, and for what?

All I hear from his supporters is "give him a chance". We're supposed to sit there with smiles on our faces until it's too late and then.... what? Once we've lost all our leverage, once everyone's appointed and all the policies in place and then we concede we were sold a bill of goods, what then? See if the Republicans will help us? Join the Green party? Mass suicide?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:11 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Give Him A Chance" = Don't Give Up, ie -- keep getting your voice heard.

"Give Him A Chance" != Shut up.

After not even a full month in office, throwing up your hands, and saying he's just like Bush strikes me as being somewhat counterproductive. He's going to start where Bush left us and gradually move to the left. Keep pushing, but don't expect Obama to move the country on his own. He can't afford to appear radical, he RAN as a centrist. What ever he does, he's going to frame it as if he looked at the situation and decided he was forced to do it by circumstances. This is clearly a case where it's not time sensitive, and he has options, so he's not going to force the issue right now. Maybe the reason he's claiming state secrets is that they looked at it, and it's NOT DAMNING ENOUGH. It's just possible that he's waiting for a case that's going to blow the whole thing wide open, and this isn't it. You just don't know.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is to watch what he does when he's not dealing with a bunch of bullshit handed to him by the Bush administration with no good options left. That's when you'll see what he's really like.
posted by empath at 8:22 AM on February 10, 2009


From one of Greenwald's updates, here's a pretty definitive answer to those saying "Give them time to do a thorough review":
One of the judges on the three-judge panel explicitly asked the DOJ lawyer, Doug Letter, whether the change in administrations had any bearing on the Government's position in this case. Letter emphatically said it did not. Instead, he told the court, the new administration -- the new DOJ -- had actively reviewed this case and vetted the Bush positions and decisively opted to embrace the same positions.
Also:
The entire claim of "state secrets" in this case is based on two sworn Declarations from CIA Director Michael Hayden -- one public and one filed secretly with the court. In them, Hayden argues that courts cannot adjudicate this case because to do so would be to disclose and thus degrade key CIA programs of rendition and interrogation -- the very policies which Obama, in his first week in office, ordered shall no longer exist. How, then, could continuation of this case possibly jeopardize national security when the rendition and interrogation practices which gave rise to these lawsuits are the very ones that the U.S. Government, under the new administration, claims to have banned?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:24 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's how I'll judge Obama:

If in two years: We're out of Iraq, we've reached an agreement with Iran on nukes, Palestine and Israel are back at the negotiating table, Bin Ladin is Dead, Afghanistan is under control, Guantanamo is shut down, we have some kind of truth commission on the Bush administration, NSA Wiretapping is shut down, and the economy is back on track -- then I'll be 100% satisfied with the money I donated and the vote I gave for him.

I'm not in any rush. After 8 years of clusterfuck, I'm perfectly fine with being patient while Obama tries to untangle the mess.
posted by empath at 8:27 AM on February 10, 2009


...throwing up your hands, and saying he's just like Bush strikes me as being somewhat counterproductive.

Can you link to where somebody did that? If you can't, then throwing up your straw man strikes me as being somewhat demeaning.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:27 AM on February 10, 2009


Just to continue licking the presidents boots for one more post: All the liberal blogs were up in arms about how Obama was completely fucking up the stimulus package by appeasing the Republicans while they were giving him nothing in return. And yet, the bill passed, and the public is backing Obama and against the Republicans by a huge margin. I think Obama is pretty much always the smartest guy in the room. Assuming he has good intentions, I think he'll get us where we all want to be. Assuming he has bad intentions--- well, if that's the case, we're pretty much fucked 15 different ways to Sunday.
posted by empath at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2009


If in two years: We're out of Iraq, we've reached an agreement with Iran on nukes, Palestine and Israel are back at the negotiating table, Bin Ladin is Dead, Afghanistan is under control, Guantanamo is shut down, we have some kind of truth commission on the Bush administration, NSA Wiretapping is shut down, and the economy is back on track -- then I'll be 100% satisfied with the money I donated and the vote I gave for him.

In two years the U.S. will not be out of Iraq (enduring base, large diplomatic compound), there will be no agreement with Iran (Israel much?), there will be no agreement over Palestine and Israel (settlement activity?), Afghanistan will still be a narco state where the Afghan President's brother is the biggest drug dealer around, Guantanamo will be shut and placed in the U.S., Obama has ruled out a truth and reconciliation commission, the wire taps will still be required and the economy will still be fucked.

Get back your cash. Oh, wait, you can't. There's money back guarantees for Hope and Change.
posted by gsb at 8:33 AM on February 10, 2009


.Can you link to where somebody did that? If you can't, then throwing up your straw man strikes me as being somewhat demeaning.

Exactly those words? no

but just a quick glance at the top of the thread:

C'mon. Deep down, we all knew Obama was gonna play ball.

Keep handing out cash to the banks, empty that treasury, reward your campaign contributors, lie through your teeth, keep those state secrets nice and safe... yeah, change all right.

etc...
posted by empath at 8:34 AM on February 10, 2009


Obama has ruled out a truth and reconciliation commission,

No he hasn't.
posted by empath at 8:35 AM on February 10, 2009


Here's how I'll judge Obama:

Good for you. Seriously - it's your right to do that. My opinion is that it's wrong to hide illegal acts behind a specious claim of national security, and that the hiding should stop now. I keep thinking about the guy who had his penis filleted, and who the DoJ says should not be allowed to proceed with a lawsuit against some of those who made that possible. Somehow, I think he's not going to endorse your patient approach.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:37 AM on February 10, 2009


And yet, the bill passed,

Yes, the crappy bill passed, not helping the people worst hit, not undoing any of the massive givebacks to the rich over the last eight years. Why is that good?

He shouldn't be judged on whether he "scores points over the Republicans" but whether he manages to actually do the best for the country.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:47 AM on February 10, 2009


Obama cool on push for Bush-era 'truth commission' WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Barack Obama gave a cool welcome Monday to a top US senator's call for a "truth commission" to probe alleged abuses under George W. Bush -- but did not rule out possible prosecutions for wrongdoing.

Obama said at the first press conference of his young presidency that he had not seen the proposal from Democratic Senator Pat Leahy and would have a look at it -- "but my general orientation is to say let's get it right moving forward."


Sorry, he's cool about it. I guess that's 'hopeful'.
posted by gsb at 8:59 AM on February 10, 2009


Keith, my point wasn't to give Obama a pass for every mistake he makes. My point is that the guy has been in office for exactly three weeks today, and already people are chicken-littleing their asses off, declaring that the sky is falling, omg bush mark 3, what have you.

He has fucked up here. He is going to fuck up again. And anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded, a moron, or both. Hell, as has already been pointed out, the FISA thing still rankles, and he hadn't even won the election yet at that point.

I'm just saying that we have had eight horrific years of the worst president in our country's history, and I just think it's a little premature for folks to declare this administration over and a disaster before it's barely begun.

Fuck that cynical noise.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:35 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


*sorry, that should have been Kirth, not Keith, obviously. My apologies.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:36 AM on February 10, 2009


How, then, could continuation of this case possibly jeopardize national security when the rendition and interrogation practices which gave rise to these lawsuits are the very ones that the U.S. Government, under the new administration, claims to have banned?

Obama did not ban interrogation and rendition; he banned interrogation that involves torture, now more strictly defined, and banned rendition to places where torture could occur. It is plausible that resources used for what is now officially considered illegal interrogation and rendition remain in place, performing legitimate functions, and that exposing them could create some real danger--not least personal danger to those involved.

Also, Obama might be senistiive to the fact that, as someone pointed out above, these were policies enacted at the highest levels of government, and lower-level players who cooperated (as seems involved in this case) might not be legitimate targets for prosecution, considering they were acting on behalf of a government that assured them their activities were legal and necessary, within a climate in which the government had the power to make uncooperative people disappear. The levels of intimidation seen on CNN and Fox toward those who merely disagreed with the administration's policies on terrorism and then war were likely tame in comparison to the kinds of non-public pressure put on people and organizations to comply.
posted by troybob at 9:41 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


...lower-level players who cooperated (as seems involved in this case) might not be legitimate targets for prosecution, considering they were acting on behalf of a government that assured them their activities were legal and necessary, within a climate in which the government had the power to make uncooperative people disappear...

The "only following orders" defense against charges of war crimes didn't hold much water fifty years ago. Did I miss the UN resolution or decision at the Hague or legislation passed in the US that made it viable today?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2009


The legality of what the Bush guys did is still being debated even now--Obama would not have needed to declare these things illegal under executive order if it was so legally clear-cut--so it's a high burden to place on a company to recognize that they are knowingly engaging in war crimes in providing services to support administration policies.
posted by troybob at 11:18 AM on February 10, 2009


The legality of what the Bush guys did is still being debated

You don't settle questions of law in debate, you settle them in court. The entire issue here centres on the fact that no American administration wants American tactics to face legal scrutiny.
posted by Chuckles at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


digby says:
The Cheney-ites used to smirk about how the Obama administration would find that they wanted these "tools" when they got into power and a lot was written before the election about how power, once taken, will never be given back. And, indeed, this was the central thrust of many of our arguments about holding the Bush administration accountable for its abuse of the constitution.

Perhaps this will be the only case in which the Obama DOJ will assert this privilege, although it's hard to see what's so different about this particular case than any others of its ilk. But even if they do only use it this one time, because they have preserved the power, it will sit there, waiting to be used by leaders who may not be quite as saintly and wise as our current president. It is now no longer a relic of an administration that is widely seen as reckless and out of control. It's been validated by their successors. You can see how this is a problem.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:32 PM on February 10, 2009


Except that claiming state secrets in a court case is a power of the executive and was long before Bush II.
posted by empath at 4:00 PM on February 10, 2009


Umm Kirth, the extraordinary renditions were started by Clinton, and with Hillary as s.o.s. this really isn't that surprising is it?
posted by vronsky at 4:42 PM on February 10, 2009


Um, no - they weren't. Go back to your linked article and search out the word "extraordinary." Did you find it? No? That's because it isn't there.

Also, from that article: "He says at the time the CIA did not arrest or imprison anyone itself. "

Besides, "Clinton did it too" is not a justification for this shit.

======================

empath, please read the details of this case, especially Greenwald's thorough treatment. This is not like what went before it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:23 PM on February 10, 2009


Ambinder does some actual, like reporting on what's going on:

Officials decided that it would be imprudent to reverse course so abruptly because they realized they didn't yet have a full picture of the intelligence methods and secrets that underlay the privilege's assertions, because the privilege might correctly protect a state secret, and because the domino effect of retracting it could harm legitimate cases, both civil and criminal, that are already in progress.

"If you decide today precipitously to waive this privilege, you can't get it back,
an administration official said. "If you decide to assert it, you can always retract it in the future."
posted by empath at 5:41 PM on February 10, 2009


A soberer treatment

the Obama administration's decision to preserve its invocation, in Mohamed v. Jeppesen, was immediately interpreted by the vocal civil libertarian community as a betrayal of its basic principles. During the campaign, Obama had criticized its use to preemptively dismiss civil lawsuits against the government. Adding to the current agitation, Obama aides have been silent about its reasoning and the process.

But based on interviews with current administration officials involved in the case, with Bush administration officials, as well as with national security law experts, a clearer explanation emerges.

posted by jckll at 5:50 PM on February 10, 2009


damnit
posted by jckll at 5:51 PM on February 10, 2009


Agreeing that now is not the right time to start this particular shitstorm. Let's actually fix things now, and dig George out of his hole right after 2011, when things are better off and the short-term memory half of the electorate need a reminder of how bad things used to be.
posted by Orb2069 at 5:52 PM on February 10, 2009


Greenwald: The 180-degree reversal of Obama's State Secrets position
posted by homunculus at 7:03 PM on February 10, 2009


Why is the Obama administration clinging to an indefensible state-secrets doctrine?
posted by homunculus at 9:52 PM on February 10, 2009


Greenwald:
In defending the Obama administration's position (without beginning to understand it), The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder revealingly wrote -- on behalf of civil libertarians who he fantasizes have anointed him their spokesman:
It wouldn't be wise for a new administration to come in, take over a case from a prosecutor, and completely change a legal strategy in mid-course without a more thorough review of the national security implications. And, of course, the invocation itself isn't necessarily an issue; civil libertarians and others who voted for Obama did so with the belief that his judgment and his attorney general would be better stewards of that privilege than President Bush and his attorney generals (and vice president.)
We don't actually have a system of government (or at least we're not supposed to) where we rely on the magnanimity and inherent Goodness of specific leaders to exercise secret powers wisely. That, by definition, is how grateful subjects of benevolent tyrants think ("this power was bad in Bush's hands because he's bad, but it's OK in Obama's hands because he is good and kind"). Countries that are nations of laws rather than of men don't rely on blind faith in the good character of leaders to prevent abuse. They rely on what we call "law" and "accountability" and "checks and balances" to provide those safeguards -- exactly the type that Democrats, when it came to the States Secret privilege, long insisted upon before January 20, 2009.
It was wrong when Bush did it, not because it was Bush doing it, or because of what he chose to do with it. It's still wrong when Obama's DoJ does it, and their doing it , especially in the exact same case and manner that Bush did, is an explicit endorsement of the tactic by the new administration. If they decide later that it's a bad thing to do and they don't do it again, the precedent is still there, and the victims of torture in this case have still been denied justice (assuming the judges in the case accept the government position).
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:27 AM on February 11, 2009


I'm really starting to hate Greenwald.

From empath's link:

"...many Obama administration legal experts believe that the privilege was recklessly abused during the past six years in particular, and that its application became political or punitive. To that end, Holder directed his staff to review all current assertions of privilege -- a review that won't be completed for several more weeks. "


In the meantime, as the article goes on to say, the existing legal positions are being allowed to stand. But any of those positions can be revoked at any time. That's reasonable to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:23 AM on February 11, 2009


Countdown - Jonathan Turley discusses Obama administration prosecutions of Bush and Co. war crimes
posted by homunculus at 10:16 AM on February 11, 2009


Binyam Mohamed torture evidence 'hidden from Obama'
posted by ornate insect at 9:08 PM on February 11, 2009


saulgoodman: But why not ask for more time, then? These trials can be delayed, instead of denied. This action is not victimless. In fact, the judges were startled that exactly this was not done. As Greenwald observes, Ambinder is acting as an apologist and reporting "anonymous sources" hearsay, this is basically meaningless.

Judge this administration by what it does, not by what excuses it feeds the media. Same treatment Bush got.
posted by mek at 7:08 PM on February 12, 2009


Bill Would Limit Judges on State Secrets
posted by homunculus at 9:28 PM on February 12, 2009


Same treatment Bush should have got.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:40 AM on February 13, 2009


Unredacted documents reveal prisoners tortured to death
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:44 AM on February 13, 2009


i assume these are new documents just released by the Obama administration?
posted by empath at 8:17 AM on February 13, 2009


In response to a FOIA request.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2009


Which was probably released because of his new policy on FOIA -- ie, a presumption of discloser.
posted by empath at 8:53 AM on February 13, 2009


or uh, disclosure.
posted by empath at 8:53 AM on February 13, 2009


It is nice and all, but I can't help thinking cynically about it. The American political system has developed very subtle and layered language in order to have their cake and eat it too. Obama had to modify that language to get elected. So, this could easily be a mid-level official misunderstanding what Obama really means by "presumption of disclosure".

The case discussed in the FPP consists of Obama making his own decision to subvert the legal system for political expedience. It will take several years of consistently open decisions before the administration of access to information can be fairly compared to that.
posted by Chuckles at 10:04 AM on February 13, 2009


Think You'd Remember the Face of Your Torturer? Think Again
posted by homunculus at 9:54 AM on February 15, 2009


Torture Report Could Be Trouble for Bush Lawyers
posted by homunculus at 10:46 AM on February 18, 2009


Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas

Charlie Savage on Obama's embrace of Bush/Cheney "terrorism policies"
posted by homunculus at 10:48 AM on February 18, 2009


"Humane Alternatives"
posted by homunculus at 9:18 AM on February 19, 2009


Do we still pretend that we abide by treaties?
The U.S. really has bound itself to a treaty called the Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994. When there are credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture, that Convention really does compel all signatories -- in language as clear as can be devised -- to "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution" (Art. 7(1)). And the treaty explicitly bars the standard excuses that America's political class is currently offering for refusing to investigate and prosecute: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" and "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture" (Art. 2 (2-3)). By definition, then, the far less compelling excuses cited by Conason (a criminal probe would undermine bipartisanship and distract us from more important matters) are plainly barred as grounds for evading the Convention's obligations.
. . .
And yet those who advocate that we refrain from criminal investigations rarely even mention our obligations under the Convention. There isn't even a pretense of an effort to reconcile what they're advocating with the treaty obligations to which Ronald Reagan bound the U.S. in 1988. Do we now just explicitly consider ourselves immune from the treaties we signed? Does our political class now officially (rather than through its actions) consider treaties to be mere suggestions that we can violate at will without even pretending to have any justifications for doing so? Most of the time, our binding treaty obligations under the Convention -- as valid and binding as every other treaty -- don't even make it into the discussion about criminal investigations of Bush officials, let alone impose any limits on what we believe we can do.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:38 AM on February 19, 2009


Abu Ghraib investigator Antonio Taguba talks to Salon about why he backs a commission to examine Bush torture policies.
posted by homunculus at 11:23 PM on February 20, 2009


The Obama administration vigorously defended congressional legislation late Wednesday that immunizes U.S. telecommunication companies from lawsuits about their participation in the Bush administration's domestic spy program.
posted by homunculus at 6:44 PM on February 26, 2009


The 9th Circuit Says State Secrets Can’t Halt al-Haramain Suit

Appeals Court Allows Classified Evidence in Spy Case
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on February 27, 2009


Thoughts of Storm Troopers Filling Spy Case
posted by homunculus at 1:40 PM on March 7, 2009


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