Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Taping back together the Constitution requires too much deliberation to start immediately...

... which explains why the Obama administration is retaining a key Bush rip in the fabric of the document....

Or, as Glenn Greenwald headlines it:

Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully

Two weeks ago, I interviewed the ACLU's Ben Wizner, counsel to 5 individuals suing the subsidiary of Boeing (Jeppesen) which had arranged the Bush administration's rendition program, under which those 5 plaintiffs had been abducted, sent to other countries and brutally tortured. Today the Obama administration was required to file with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals its position in this case -- i.e., whether it would continue the Bush administration's abusive reliance on the "state secrets" privilege to prevent courts from ruling on such matters, or whether they would adhere to Obama's previous claims about his beliefs on "state secrets" by withdrawing that position and allowing these victims their day in court.

Yesterday, enthusiastic Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan wrote about this case: "Tomorrow in a federal court hearing in San Francisco, we'll find out if the Obama administration intends to keep the evidence as secret as the Bush administration did." As I wrote after interviewing Wizner two weeks ago: "This is the first real test of the authenticity of Obama's commitment to reverse the abuses of executive power over the last eight years." Today, the Obama administration failed that test -- resoundingly and disgracefully:

Obama Administration Maintains Bush Position on 'Extraordinary Rendition' Lawsuit

The Obama Administration today announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush Administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.

A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn't changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.

So while we are busily renaming the so-called war on terror, we're apparently keeping most of the essentials.

I guess we can take that tape we've been saving to put the Constitution back together and use it for wrapping care packages to the troops, who are going to be in Iraq and Afghanistan for a long time....


Anonymous said...

This current position by the Obama administration, to continue the Cheney/Bush policy to ban litigation that may reveal "state secrets" if permitted to go forward, is very disturbing, to say the least, because it completely reverses Obama's correct (in my view) campaign position on the subject.

However, before we rush to judgment against the Obama DOJ, we should wait a reasonable amount of time to see how this policy eventually shakes out. I find it hard to believe that Obama would enable this policy to persist as it now stands, in spite of the DOJ claims that it has been "thoroughly vetted".

Here is one defense offered that bears consideration:
"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.)"

Now I don't think it wise to rely on the good judgment of a particular Presidential office holder (Obama), although temporarily this may actually be the case before the ultimate shakeout.

I just cannot help but wonder whether the illegality of the Cheney/Bush administration was so eggregious that revealing it at this time would cause major reverberations against the US, further deteriorating our global standing, thus working against our global interests. If so, Obama will have to eventually reveal it, but he should do so with the revelation carefully framed, in order to minimize unjustified extensions and conclusions.

I do not believe that Obama will permit this Cheney/Bush policy to stand unchanged. At this three week point in his Presidency, however, it is prudent for him to take a deliberate and cautious approach to finally define his policy on these critical issues of both national security and habeas corpus.

Perry Hood

Hube said...

I do not believe that Obama will permit this Cheney/Bush policy to stand unchanged.

Spoken like a true believer, Perry! (How David Axelrodian of you.) That's why he's The Messiah, after all! ;-)

h. said...

Perry said, "I just cannot help but wonder whether the illegality of the Cheney/Bush administration was so eggregious that revealing it at this time would cause major reverberations against the US,"

I guess we can blame George for every issue that arises for all eternity.

tom said...

Where's all that glasnost^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H hope and perestroika^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H change now?