Tag Archive: Barack Obama. George W. Bush

Sep 19 2010

Liberal Democrats Set Terms for Torture Inquiry

Sounds great only problem is that headline is from England. It seems that Liberal Democrats in Britain have far less problem “looking back” in order to “look forward” than the US.

The Liberal Democrats today set out what they think the terms of the government’s upcoming inquiry into torture should be.

In July David Cameron announced a judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in torture and rendition since the al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington, DC, in September 2001.

The three-person inquiry panel will be headed by Sir Peter Gibson, a former appeal court judge who is currently commissioner for the intelligence services. He will be assisted by Dame Janet Paraskeva, the head of the civil service commissioners, and Peter Riddell, the former Times political commentator who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for Government.

Most of the inquiry will be held in secret, but victims of torture and their representatives will be able to give evidence during open sessions, as will representatives of human rights groups.

In a letter to Gibson, Cameron set out the “parameters” of the inquiry, but the final terms have yet to be made public. These parameters included the changing attitude of “other countries” towards counterterrorism detainees, although it makes clear that “this is an inquiry into the actions of the UK, not any other state”.

Meanwhile despite all his campaign rhetoric, Pres Barack Obama defends torture, rendition, indefinite detention and denies detainees habeus corpus, claiming national security concerns and using state secrets to cover up war crimes.

The President has used the courts and the power of his office to not only defend these horrific policies of the Bush/Cheney administration but has expanded them to include targeting American citizens for assassination and manipulating the law to prevent the courts from reviewing the legality of this practice that denies the victim not only his rights as a US citizen under the Constitution but the victim’s human rights .

The administration’s legal team is debating how aggressive it should be in a brief responding to the lawsuit, which is due Sept. 24. The suit, filed last month, seeks an injunction that would prevent the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who is accused of playing a leading role for Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

Justice Department lawyers are circulating a draft brief with several potential arguments for dismissing the case, and lawyers from national security agencies have met to discuss what should go into the final version. But they have not reached a consensus, according to officials familiar with the discussions, because the arguments seen as strongest also carry significant political and legal risks.

“There are a lot of cross-cutting things going on here, and they have to be very careful about how they litigate this,” said Jack Goldsmith, who was a senior Justice Department lawyer in the Bush administration. “It’s not just a question of winning the case. There is the public diplomacy side, and there are implications for everything else they are doing in the war on terrorism: detention and targeting and other things, too, I imagine.”

The US is still in the shadows and descending even deeper into the darkness.

Sep 10 2010

Torture Is A War Crime, So Is Covering It Up

Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A. by Charlie Savage

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A.  could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information.

The sharply divided ruling was a major victory for the Obama administration’s efforts to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy powers. It strengthens the White House’s hand as it has pushed an array of assertive counterterrorism policies, while raising an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule for the first time in decades on the scope of the president’s power to restrict litigation that could reveal state secrets. . . . .

   The decision bolstered an array of ways in which the Obama administration has pressed forward with broad counter-terrorism policies after taking over from the Bush team, a degree of continuity that has departed from the expectations fostered by President Obama’s campaign rhetoric, which was often sharply critical of President Bush’s approach.

   Among other policies, the Obama team has also placed a United States citizen on a targeted-killings list without a trial, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas-corpus lawsuits challenging their indefinite imprisonment, and continued the C.I.A. rendition program . . . .

   As a senator and candidate for the White House, President Obama had criticized the Bush administration’s frequent use of the state-secrets privilege. In February 2009, when his weeks-old administration reaffirmed the Bush administration’s view on the case, civil libertarian groups that had supported his campaign expressed shock and dismay.

Glen Greenwald points out how far we haven fallen:

here’s what The New York Times’ John Schwartz reported in February, 2009, when the Obama DOJ first told the 9th Circuit that they were going to assert the same “state secrets” arguments in this case which the Bush DOJ made:  

“In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration.”


Schwartz described how the judges on the appellate panel were so startled that they actually asked multiple times if the Obama DOJ was really sticking with the Bush position, as though they couldn’t believe what they were hearing.  What a quaint time that was, when people were surprised by Obama’s replicating Bush’s secrecy and Terrorism positions — the very ones he so vehemently condemned when running for President. After 18 months of seeing this over and over in multiple realms, nobody would react that way now.

The ACLU’s Ben Wizner on the decision:    

This is a sad day not only for the torture victims whose attempt to seek justice has been extinguished, but for all Americans who care about the rule of law and our nation’s reputation in the world. To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration’s torture program has had his day in court. If today’s decision is allowed to stand, the United States will have closed its courtroom doors to torture victims while providing complete immunity to their torturers. The torture architects and their enablers may have escaped the judgment of this court, but they will not escape the judgment of history.

h/t Marcy Wheeler @ FDL

My stand on torture, rendition, targeted assassinations, Guantanamo, Baghram, the two wars is pretty clear. These are war crimes. As per the Nuremberg Principles which the US signed and ratified, covering up the evidence is a war crime. There is already enough evidence to arrest and prosecute George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, along with their co-conspirators at the Hague. There is no statute of limitations, either.

Writing on Slate, the noted conservative constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein notes:

President Obama pledged to restore the rule of law. But the state-secrets-privilege wars with that promise.

I give you this from Paul Rosenberg at Open Left with regards to this case,

Obama Embraces Nazi Nurermberg Trials Logic: “They Were Only Following Orders”:

Aug 13 2010

Obama White House Enshrining Bush-Era Policies

The ACLU has issued a report on national security, Establishing a New Normal. It is an 18 month review that examines Pres. Obama’s record on national security and civil liberties. The report finds that while the President has some steps to curb torture, the CIA secret prisons and the release of the Bush administrations torture memos, according to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

“President Obama began his presidency with a bang, signing executive orders that placed the power of the presidency behind the restoration of the rule of law and gave meaning to the president’s stated view that America must lead with its values. “Unfortunately, since that time, the administration has displayed a decidedly mixed record resulting, on a range of issues, in the very real danger that the Obama administration will institutionalize some of the most troublesome policies of the previous administration – in essence, creating a troubling ‘new normal.’ We strongly urge the president to shift course and renew his commitment to the fundamental values that are the very foundation of our nation’s strength and security.”

While the Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, was attacking the Left and Liberals for comparing President Obama’s polices to George W. Bush’s, the reality is we and the “professional left” aren’t wrong. This isn’t going to go away just because the Obama loyalists want us to shut up and vote.

This is a 30 minute video from Democracy Now. The last part is an interview with Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU. Take the time to watch.