October 09, 2009

History Lesson

From Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
In February, the Obama DOJ went to court to block victims of rendition and torture from having a day in court, adopting in full the Bush argument that whatever was done to the victims is a "state secret" and national security would be harmed if the case proceeded. The following week, the Obama DOJ invoked the same "secrecy" argument to insist that victims of illegal warrantless eavesdropping must be barred from a day in court, and when the Obama administration lost that argument, they engaged in a series of extraordinary manuevers to avoid complying with the court's order that the case proceed, to the point where the GOP-appointed federal judge threatened the Government with sanctions for noncompliance. Two weeks later, "the Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, [tried] to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails."

In April, the Obama DOJ, in order to demand dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Bush officials for illegal spying on Americans, not only invoked the Bush/Cheney "state secrets" theory, but also invented a brand new "sovereign immunity" claim to insist Bush officials are immune from consequences for illegal domestic spying. The same month -- in the case brought by torture victims -- an appeals court ruled against the Obama DOJ on its "secrecy" claims, yet the administration vowed to keep appealing to prevent any judicial review of the interrogation program. In responses to these abuses, a handful of Democratic legislators re-introduced Bush-era legislation to restrict the President from asserting "state secrets" claims to dismiss lawsuits, but it stalled in Congress all year. At the end of April and then again in August, the administration did respond to a FOIA lawsuit seeking the release of torture documents by releasing some of those documents, emphasizing that they had no choice in light of clear legal requirements.

In May, after the British High Court ruled that a torture victim had the right to obtain evidence in the possession of British intelligence agencies documeting the CIA's abuse of him, the Obama administration threatened that it would cut off intelligence-sharing with Britain if the court revealed those facts, causing the court to conceal them. Also in May, Obama announced he had changed his mind and would fight-- rather than comply with -- two separate, unanimous court orders compelling the disclosure of Bush-era torture photos, and weeks later, vowed he would do anything (including issue an Executive Order or support a new FISA exemption) to prevent disclosure of those photos in the event he lost yet again, this time in the Supreme Court. In June, the administration "objected to the release of certain Bush-era documents that detail the videotaped interrogations of CIA detainees at secret prisons, arguing to a federal judge that doing so would endanger national security." In August, Obama Attorney General Eric Holder announced that while some rogue torturers may be subject to prosecution, any Bush officials who relied on Bush DOJ torture memos in "good faith" will "be protected from legal jeopardy." And all year long, the Obama DOJ fought (unsuccessfully) to keep encaged at Guantanamo a man whom Bush officials had tortured while knowing he was innocent.

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