Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tell the Truth: The Obama DoJ

Recently the Obama DoJ seriously misstepped by maintaining Bush's position on Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen, invoking the state secrets privilege and attempting to get the case dismissed. What followed was a great deal of rationalization and interpretation.

Ambinder, for instance, saw what the Obama DoJ did and thought it wise:

"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."

In another article he quoted an anonymous Obama administration official:

"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.'"

Which basically echoed the statement of DoJ spokesperson Matt Miller, who said this at the time:

"'It is the policy of this administration to invoke the state secrets
privilege only when necessary and in the most appropriate cases,' he said,
adding that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had asked for a review of
pending cases in which the government had previously asserted a state secret

'The attorney general has directed that senior Justice Department
officials review all assertions of the state secrets privilege to ensure that
the privilege is being invoked only in legally appropriate situations,' he said.
'It is vital that we protect information that, if released, could jeopardize
national security.'"

Well, of course that sounded like B.S. then, but it certainly is now. Charlie Savage this morning quotes White House counsel Greg Craig, who justified invoking the state secrets privilege, and suggested that the Obama DoJ did so for reasons that they are not likely to reverse:

"Mr. Craig said Mr. Holder and others reviewed the case and 'came to the
conclusion that it was justified and necessary for national security' to maintain
their predecessor's stance. Mr. Holder has also begun a review of every open
Bush-era case involving state secrets, Mr. Craig said, so people should not read
too much into one case.

'Every president in my lifetime has invoked the state-secrets
privilege,' Mr. Craig said. 'The notion that invoking it in that case
somehow means we are signing onto the Bush approach to the world is just an
erroneous assumption.'"

To me, this isn't just about triangulation anymore. The Obama DoJ wants this case tossed out and wants to hide the details of the extraordinary rendition flights conducted by Jeppesen. They do actually think this is justified and necessary. We've heard all their B.S. but it seems like reality is that the Obama DoJ wants to continue down the tyrannical path of the Bush DoJ. And now that the Obama DoJ is justifying their position not in terms of "we need further review," but in terms of "we need this for national security," it is hard to imagine how they even could reverse their position. National security in their eyes was endangered yesterday, but not today? In front of this court, but not the next? Now reversing their position would be political suicide.

It is time to hold Obama accountable.

[Crossposted at TalkLeft]

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