Obama Administration Stokes Embers of GOP Interest in Oversight by Blowing Off Targeted Killing Hearing

Boy, what fucking idiots run DOJ (and, presumably, the Obama Administration generally).

As I noted when I first remarked on Bob Goodlatte, the new Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, showing some interest in the targeted killing memo, a perceived slight on Congressional prerogative (and perhaps a suspicion that paranoid levels of secrecy tends to indicate misconduct somewhere) seemed to get mainstream Republicans like Goodlatte interested in the targeted killing program for the first time.

And then HJC decided to hold a hearing on targeted killing, something solidly within their jurisdiction. And then Goodlatte invited a representative from DOJ, something they get to do to conduct oversight.

And then DOJ blew off HJC.

Whoo boy! You had Trey Gowdy, of all people, out there endorsing the idea of killing people in everything from hot pursuit to stand your ground contexts, but still demanding oversight in this case. You had Republican after Republican (and more Republicans did show up, even given the committee imbalance) show an interest in the proper limits to a President’s authority to kill. Republican after Republican (plus a few Democrats, including John Conyers) complained that the Administration had blown off the committee.

I mean, I’ll take it. If the Administration wants to stupidly give the GOP a reason to make this a political issue, I’m happy to finally have someone pushing for oversight in this area.

But I can’t imagine what kind of stupidity drove the decision to blow off the committee.

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.

15 replies
  1. phred says:

    Not stupidity. Hubris.

    No one in Congress, nor SCOTUS, has demonstrated even the slightest interest in reining in the Executive’s relentless pursuit of ever expanding power. So really, why not blow off Congress altogether?

    Besides, DOJ is busy crafting secret memoranda to replace our previously publicly stated laws. They have no time for petty Congressional grandstanding for increasingly meaningless elections.

  2. bsbafflesbrains says:

    Agree hubris is controlling not stupidity. But stupidity is controlling the overall goal making and decision making to achieve those goals. Harvard and Wharton are producing evil genius’ for the most part and they can be too clever for their own good. None of these guys have read and understood Animal Farm it seems.

  3. P J Evans says:

    I don’t know if they think it’s about farming, or if they think it’s an instruction manual like ‘1984’. Most of them are of an age where they should have read it in school.

  4. orionATL says:

    well, now. this could get interesting. this is a ready-made issue for that part of the right-wing that believes you should have your guns handy if the guvmint comes to get you.

    aand ready-made as well for the substantial libertarian crowd.

    but the inside guys, republican or democrat, aren’t likely to take it on unless the pressure builds a lot higher than now.

    my guess is they are already in such deep trouble with their rube goldberg justification for killing americans that they figure congressional anger is the least thing to worry about. better to nail the lid shut now and hope the storm blows over.

    and who knows, maybe the admin will get lucky. it’s about time for another cia-ignored terrorist act.

  5. ApacheTrout says:

    You’re absolutely correct, phred. Through all its actions over the past 25 years, Congress considers itself subservient to the Executive Branch, or even anyone testifying before any of its committees. Until we get a chair in the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, or the Senate Intellegience that calls people on their obfuscation and outright lies, we’ll continue to see people blow off Congress.

  6. phred says:

    @ApacheTrout: The thing that kills me is that Congress has A LOT of power. The government was set up that way from the beginning. But the corrupt bastards refuse to use it, since they no longer view their professional loyalties through the prism of being members of Congress, but rather as members of political parties.

    Due to their misguided loyalties they have become completely incapable of governing, much less of providing the necessary check that acts as a balance to the other two branches.

    I don’t think third parties or more parties will solve the problem, as multi-party systems elsewhere don’t appear to be much better off than we are.

    Somehow we desperately need to change the incentives such that office-holders become more accountable to their constituents and less beholden to party fundraisers. I get that party fundraisers place party loyalty first. But members of Congress need to be loyal to their institutional role first and foremost rather than to their party flag-bearer role.

    As long as the President is viewed primarily as the head of the party by members of Congress (rather than the executive of the country), then those members will constrain their behavior to either propping up or tearing down the President.

    That’s not governance.

    Unfortunately, as much as I would like to think that Republicans might make something out of their umbrage and crack down on Obama’s usurpation of power, I highly doubt they will. They are just looking to do whatever is convenient to prop up their party at the expense of the other for the benefit of fundraisers everywhere.

  7. GKJames says:

    Any sign of the committee’s preparing subpoenas? Only when Congress starts doing that will we be talking about the beginnings of meaningful oversight. Until then, posturing remains the coin of the realm.

  8. JohnT says:


    Your comment reminded me of a blog I wrote almost 5 years ago based on a very informative and interesting piece by someone at kos who was writing about the FISA sellout

    He, or she, likened it to Rome

    Tacitus, writing of the first Senate meeting after the death of Augustus Caesar (Annals 1.8):

    Messala Valerius further proposed that the oath of allegiance to Tiberius should be renewed yearly, and when Tiberius asked him whether it was at his bidding that he had brought forward this motion, Valerius replied that he had proposed it spontaneously, and that in whatever concerned the State he would use only his own discretion, even at the risk of offending. This was the only style of adulation which yet remained.

    The pathetic and quite ridiculous record of the Roman Senate’s capitulation to imperial power is rife with analogues to the collapse of the US Congress during the last two generations in matters of national security and international affairs. And this without the Romans’ excuse that they feared for their lives.

  9. JohnT says:


    Hey Marcy

    Ever heard of Ragtime? (I could’ve missed it, if you’ve written about it)

    More than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a set of extraordinary and secretive surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency has been institutionalized, and they have grown.

    These special programs are conducted under the code name Ragtime, and are divided into several subcomponents, according to the new book Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady. (I purchased a copy this morning.)


    P stands for Patriot Act. Ragtime-P is the remnant of the original President’s Surveillance Program, the name given to so-called “warrantless wiretapping” activities after 9/11, in which one end of a phone call or an e-mail terminated inside the United States. That collection has since been brought under law, but civil liberties groups, journalists, and legal scholars continue to seek more information about what it entailed, who was targeted, and what authorities exist today for domestic intelligence-gathering.

    Deep State has some answers.


  10. beowulf says:

    This is a great issue for Republicans, I mean a phenomenal issue. Its political malpractice that Romney didn’t run on this in last year’s presidential race.

    Taking the nay side of “does the President have the power to assassinate citizens?” puts gun nuts, civil libertarians, Bush apologists and GOP partisans (Dems who attack Bush’s wiretapping are defending Obama’s drones) all on the same page. Hell even Chuck Norris is on board.

    The House Republicans have damn few issues where Obama’s is crosswise with public opinion, this is one of them. They should be out calling those weekly kill list meetings the “Obama death panel”.

  11. P J Evans says:

    They apparently prefer having their killings more transparent, as in wars. They also apparently prefer inventing reasons to start those wars.

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