White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler Vows Not to Let the White House Be Defeated by Actual Citizens

In an article describing how–in the guise of “flexibility”–the White House has continued the seeming relentless grab for unchecked executive power, White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler offers a terribly cynical explanation for the Administration’s asinine levels of secrecy regarding its drone strikes.

But in an interview, White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler acknowledged Mr. Obama has developed a broader view of executive power since he was a senator. In explaining the shift, she cited the nature of the office.

“Many issues that he deals with are just on him, where the Congress doesn’t bear the burden in the same way,” she said. “Until one experiences that first hand, it is difficult to appreciate fully how you need flexibility in a lot of circumstances.”

[snip]

Ms. Ruemmler said Mr. Obama tries to publicly explain his use of executive power, but says certain counterterrorism programs like the drone campaign are exceptions. Opening them to public scrutiny would be “self-defeating,” she said.

The WSJ doesn’t explain what she meant when invoking “self-defeat.” But her stance was described in a Daniel Klaidman article on the Administration’s decision, at a meeting in the Situation Room last November, to release more information about the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

Another senior official expressing caution about the plan was Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel. She cautioned that the disclosures could weaken the government’s stance in pending litigation. The New York Times has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration under the Freedom of Information Act seeking the release of the Justice Department legal opinion in the Awlaki case. (The department has declined to provide the documents requested.)

That is, Ruemmler’s not making an argument about the efficacy of the drone strikes themselves; al Qaeda already knows who’s responsible for the arms raining down on their heads.

Rather, Ruemmler doesn’t want to be “defeated” by journalists, civil liberties organizations, and ordinary citizens seeking to at least understand, if not limit, executive power.

Kathy Ruemmler’s not waging her counterterrorism war against al Qaeda when she warns of self-defeat. She’s waging her counterterrorism war against us.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. PeasantParty says:

    Egads! The Great Pretender has yet another psychotic council member.

    The more they try to cover stuff up, the more transparent it becomes.

  2. MadDog says:

    It would seem that Kathy Ruemmler describes and defends a political flexibility that fits with the leaking of secret information by Administration officials when they wish to benefit from the leaks, but stands in stark contrast (and may undercut) the DOJ’s constant and consistent legal inflexibility in court.

    Having one’s cake and eating it too. I am not surprised.

  3. What Constitution says:

    Well, it’s certainly a relief to be secure in the knowledge that Obama is a Good Man, who would never misuse or abuse the powers he may “need” to do the things he may think he “needs” to do to be President. And it’s so good to have his courtiers point this out and defend it. Because it certainly doesn’t pose any risk in the event that, say, somebody “less Good” might become president.

  4. orionATL says:

    “Rather, Ruemmler doesn’t want to be “defeated” by journalists, civil liberties organizations, and ordinary citizens seeking to at least understand, if not limit, executive power.”

    this is precisely the goal of the whitehouse, and not just this one.

    it is also precisely the goal of the dod and the american military commands in the field.

    deceit, misdirection, stone-walling, cover-up, lying, intimidation and persecution-thru-prosecution, these all considered legitimate weapons in the war of the american presidency against its citizens –

    a war that obama promised us that he would end, a war that he could have ended, but has only been expanded because obama lacks the moral viewpoint, the political courage, and the leadership skills to carry out that DUTY.

  5. Frank33 says:

    I see a bright future for Ms. Ruemmler. She reminds me of Jamie Gorelick, who makes millions protecting the Espionage/Corporate Complex. These Secret Operatives are making history as they infiltrate all levels of Government, especially the National Security. The Neo-con Borg Collective has a four million member Stasi, which will neutralize, any inconvenient public sentiment.

    Ruemmler and these people claim they can murder, and torture, anyone. They create fake wars and fake terrorism any time they like. Ruemmler is a psychotic criminal who is part of a criminal conspiracy concealing US Government assassinations. Ruemmler is definitely Hedge Fund Manager material.

  6. SpanishInquisition says:


    “Many issues that he deals with are just on him, where the Congress doesn’t bear the burden in the same way,” she said. “Until one experiences that first hand, it is difficult to appreciate fully how you need flexibility in a lot of circumstances.”

    Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better! I hope she enjoys her role as Squealer on Obama’s Animal Farm. 9 out of 10 authoritarian dictators agree that things like Constitutions are inconvenient to their dictatorship, so best to ignore them.

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