Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive: Pixie Dust 2.0

Back when John Yoo was finding ways to authorize President Bush’s illegal wiretap program — especially spying on Americans who were not agents of a foreign power — he changed the meaning of certain limits in EO 12333 without rewriting EO 12333. The President didn’t have to change EO 12333 to reflect actual practice, Yoo determined (relying on an Iran-Contra precedent), because ignoring EO 12333 amounted to modifying it.

An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

I call this pixie-dusting, where the Executive makes his own orders and directives disappear in secret.

Poof!

The use of pixie-dust — so recently used to justify spying on people while pretending not to spy on them — ought to give you pause when you read this passage from President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive limiting US spying overseas (or, frankly, everything he said today, which all consists of the Executive exercising its prerogative to change and oversee Executive actions, but in no way includes any teeth to sustain such changes).

Nothing in this directive shall be construed to prevent me from exercising my constitutional authority, including as Commander in Chief, Chief Executive, and in the conduct of foreign affairs, as well as my statutory authority. Consistent with this principle, a recipient of this directive may at any time recommend to me, through the APNSA, a change to the policies and procedures contained in this directive.

Effectively Obama is laying out his prerogative to pixie dust this PPD.

And while the President admittedly would always have such prerogative, he didn’t include such a paragraph in his cyberwar PPD (which, of course, wasn’t meant to be public).

This PPD was designed to be ignored.

And I suspect our friends and adversaries know that.

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bmaz @walterwkatz @emptywheel There is simply a ton of criminal law in there actually. Kind of hard to get across, but it is in there. I tried!
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bmaz Yes, here it is, a Storify recap of "Emptywheel's Parallel Prosecution Primer" http://t.co/VAqHz7OEVf Just what you wanted for Easter!
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bmaz @bmaz Yes, here it is, a Storify recap of "Emptywheel's Parallel Prosecution Primer" http://t.co/gdn7Eb6QYx
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bmaz @emptywheel @HanniFakhoury Well, actually, I kinda been hoping @Atrios would get a Supertrain built between Phoenix+Tucson. #WantSupertrain
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emptywheel @bmaz FFS bmaz, haven't you ever heard of driving 2 hours before? @HanniFakhoury
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emptywheel @PatrickCToomey Don't forget they're not telling ANYONE (except Moalin, who may not have been 215 but instead 12333) dragnet involved.
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bmaz @kevinjonheller Ah, you thought you had gotten rid of me, eh matey? Soon it will be glorious Packers season again!
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bmaz @KagroX So, you ARE old! #GetOffaMyLawnersUnite!
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bmaz @HanniFakhoury Wait, you are speaking with Judge Frank Zappa? Not that close, but my wife just bought gas miser Prius, Maybe I'll come down.
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bmaz @charlie_savage Wait, people still blog? Who are those guys? https://t.co/qIqdwWoed4
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bmaz And that is a wrap on today's parallel construction lesson. http://t.co/dUqzgH0Jkd
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bmaz And that, my friends, is why this post is so important. http://t.co/lI7Xs9vZ3i Shine it on at your own peril and/or stupidity.
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