Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Abandon Hope, Part II

God, I really hope there isn't a Part III.....

I voted for Obama and was glad to do so. At the time, it struck me as an opportunity to repudiate the policies of the Bush administration that in my view, were damaging to the very concept of what an American is. I'm idealistic (and fiercely so), but I like to think that Americans.....

....Find the concept of torture repugnant.

....Find the idea of having their privacy invaded repugnant.

....Find the idea of people being locked up without a trial repugnant.

....Find the thought of the President being able to order assassinations of citizens repugnant.

....BELIEVE passionately, that those responsible for any of the above should have to face an accounting.

I voted for Obama partly out of a terror at the idea of a potential Palin White House. But mostly because I assumed he held these basic values in common with me.

And I was wrong.

Obama first backpedalled from his oft stated opposition as a candidate to warrantless wire tapping. From the New York Tmes:

When the lawsuit was filed in 2006, the government argued that the charity and two lawyers who worked with it could not sue unless they knew the charity was being wiretapped. They could not know that because the wiretapping was secret. If they somehow found out, they could not prove the wiretapping was warrantless, because that was also a secret.

Senator Obama promised repeatedly in the 2008 campaign to reverse Mr. Bush’s many abuses of power. This was one of them. President Obama should read this court ruling with chagrin and eliminate warrantless spying. It is also far past time to stop hiding behind spurious, often ludicrous, claims of national security.

Read the post.

From there, Obama moved onto torture, providing war criminals with a shield against accountability by (once again), invoking the States Secrets doctrine.. Andrew Sullivan (who I disagree with vociferously and notably on some issues) had this to say:

I tried valiantly not to believe this of Holder and Obama for months; I tried to see their legitimate concerns about exposing a war machine when it is still at war; I understand the need for some extraordinary renditions; and the necessity for executive power in emergencies to act swiftly, as the Founders intended. Yes war requires some secrecy. But Obama has gone much further than this now. The cloak of secrecy he is invoking is not protecting national security but protecting war crimes. And this is now inescapably his cloak. He is therefore a clear and knowing accessory to war crimes, and should at some point face prosecution as well, if the Geneva Conventions mean anything any more. This won't happen in my lifetime, barring a miracle. Because Obama was a test case. If an outsider like him, if a constitutional scholar like him, at a pivotal moment for accountability like the last two years, cannot hold American torturers to account, there is simply no accountability for American torture. When the CIA actually rehires as a contractor someone who held a power-drill against the skull of a prisoner, you know that change from within this system is impossible. The system is too powerful. It protects itself. It makes a mockery of the rule of law. It doesn't only allow torture; it rewards it.

Read the post.

From there, Obama drifted into asserting his right as the Executive to kill American citizens without trial. Glenn Greenwald attacked here:

But what's most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is "state secrets": in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are "state secrets," and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

Read the post.

And now finally, the administration has moved back to merely arguing that prosecutors deserve immunity for locking citizens up, in the United States, naked and shackled without a charge or even being called as witnesses in a trial. The administration is arguing that John Ashcroft deserves prosecutorial immunity for doing just that. From the New York Times:

The Obama administration had urged the justices to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision allowing his suit to proceed. “If permitted to stand,” wrote Neal K. Katyal, the acting solicitor general, “the decision below would seriously limit the circumstances in which prosecutors could invoke the material witness statute without fear of personal liability.”

And why on Earth, should they not fear personal liability? I have really, really big problems with the whole concept of prosecutorial immunity to begin with. I appreciate the argument that prosecutors should feel free to vigorously pursue a case without fear of repercussion but this extends it far, far beyond that. From the judges decision:

“To use a material witness statute pretextually, in order to investigate or pre-emptively detain suspects without probable cause,” Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote for the majority of the divided three-judge panel, “is to violate the Fourth Amendment,” which bans unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Some confidently assert,” Judge Smith continued, “that the government has the power to arrest and detain or restrict American citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions, not because there is evidence that they have committed a crime, but merely because the government wishes to investigate them for possible wrongdoing, or to prevent them from having contact with others in the outside world. We find this to be repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.”

Read the article.

Obama is rapidly reaching the point where I no longer chastise him for being as bad as Bush on civil liberties. He's quickly becoming worse.

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