Obama Hates The Truth On Binyan Mohamed

The news last week that President Obama had bought into and signed off on the full boat of shameful state secrets assertion in the case of Binyan Mohamed v Jeppesen Dataplan set off a wave of criticism. Obama came to the criticism the old fashioned way, he earned it by breaking his campaign promise and continuing the wretched excess of unitary secrecy. Obama’s about face, and turn to the dark side of Bush/Cheney secrecy shocked even Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Mary Schroeder when confronted with it at the Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan hearing.

That is the part of Obama’s war on Binyam Mohamed through Bush style secrecy that has been widely reported, but there is much more that is not as well known. It ought to be. From this morning’s Guardian:

A policy governing the interrogation of terrorism suspects in Pakistan that led to British citizens and residents being tortured was devised by MI5 lawyers and figures in government, according to evidence heard in court.

The existence of an official interrogation policy emerged during cross-examination in the high court in London of an MI5 officer who had questioned one of the detainees, Binyam Mohamed, the British resident currently held in Guantánamo Bay. The officer, who can be identified only as Witness B, admitted that although Mohamed had been in Pakistani custody for five weeks, and he knew the country to have a poor human rights record, he did not ask whether he had been tortured or mistreated, did not inquire why he had lost weight, and did not consider whether his detention without trial was illegal.

Mohamed was eventually able to tell lawyers that before being questioned by MI5 he had been hung from leather straps, beaten and threatened with a firearm by Pakistani intelligence officers. After the meeting with MI5 he was "rendered" to Morocco where he endured 18 months of even more brutal torture, including having his genitals slashed with a scalpel. Some of the questions put to him under torture in Morocco were based on information passed by MI5 to the US.

The Guardian has learned from other sources that the interrogation policy was directed at a high level within Whitehall and that it has been further developed since Mohamed’s detention in Pakistan. Evidence of this might emerge from 42 undisclosed US documents seen by the high court and sent to the MPs and peers on the intelligence and security committee (ISC).

To make this crystal clear, similar to what is going on in the Ninth Circuit in Mohamed v. Jeppesen, the High Court in London is being stymied in its inquiry into the criminal torture and abuse of Mr. Binyan Mohamed by a recalcitrant British government that is desperate to conceal its war crimes. But the key part here is how the Brits are concealing, and that is with the direct and active complicity of President Barack Obama and his Administration.

The path of this obstruction is so obnoxious, the Brits must have stolen it right out of Dick Cheney’s playbook. Again from the Guardian:

Lawyers representing Mohamed went to the high court in an attempt to secure the disclosure of the documents, but the court reluctantly refused earlier this month after David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said such a move would damage national security and UK-US relations.

Miliband’s position in the affair came under renewed attack yesterday after it emerged that his officials solicited a letter from the US state department to back up his claim that if the evidence was disclosed, Washington might stop sharing intelligence with Britain. The claim persuaded the high court judges to suppress what they called "powerful evidence" relating to Mohamed’s ill-treatment.

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, today described the move as possibly "one of the most outrageous deceptions of parliament, the judiciary and the British people. There must be an immediate investigation, with all related correspondence made public."

Edward Davey is right, but what is more outrageous is that the Obama Administration appears to have happily joined in the scurrilous obstruction.

A flurry of letters between the British Foreign Office and the US State Department has revealed that Washington did threaten to withdraw intelligence-sharing with Britain if documents related to the alleged torture of a British terrorism detainee in Guantanamo Bay were made public.

The High Court in London said on Wednesday the Foreign Office had refused to allow the torture documents to be revealed because of a "threat" from Washington to stop sharing intelligence with Britain.

The US warning, related to the case of British detainee Binyam Mohamed, was promptly denied by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who insisted that there had been no threat from the US to "break off intelligence co-operation".

Now, I would like to make clear that the immediately above details and quote references letters and communications from last fall through shortly before Obama took office. But the salient fact is that, as with their actions in the wiretapping cases, al-Haramain and Mohamed ve Jeppesen, the Obama Administration has done absolutely nothing to change the egregious policy. They just keep following the Bush/Cheney script and, it would appear, that is still the case after a meeting between Secretay of State Clinton and Millbrand in the first week of February. Perhaps the best evidence of the Obama Administration’s determination to maintain complicity on the bogus obstruction of the case in England occurred last week when one of Binyam’s attorneys sent a letter to Obama:

US defence officials are preventing Barack Obama from seeing evidence that a former British resident held in Guantánamo Bay has been tortured, the prisoner’s lawyer said last night, as campaigners and the Foreign Office prepared for the man’s release in as little as a week.

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal charity Reprieve, which represents Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed, sent Obama evidence of what he called "truly mediaeval" abuse but substantial parts were blanked out so the president could not read it.

In the letter to the president [PDF] , Stafford Smith urges him to order the disclosure of the evidence.

Stafford Smith tells Obama he should be aware of the "bizarre reality" of the situation. "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command."

It is understood US defence officials might have censored the evidence to protect the president from criminal liability or political embarrassment.

The letter and its blanked-out attachment were disclosed as two high court judges yesterday agreed to reopen the court case in which Mohamed’s lawyers, the Guardian and other media are seeking disclosure of evidence of alleged torture against him. Mohamed’s lawyers are challenging the judges’ gagging order, claiming that David Miliband, the foreign secretary, changed his evidence.

That’s right, Mohamed’s attorney was begging for assistance for Mohamed and an order releasing the evidence of Binyam’s torture, and it was censored! Oh, and crickets has been the response from Obama. That is diametrically, and cravenly so, opposed to the new, opposite of Bush/Cheney, open policy Obama promised during his campaign.

President Barack Obama has been in office less than a month, yet has been confronted head on with not one, but two, cases directly involving the life and human rights of Binyam Mohamed. Both cases squarely presented an opportunity for Mr. Obama to make the break from the oppressive rules of secrecy and torture ingrained by the Bush/Cheney regime. On both cases Obama threw his lot in with the secrecy and torture crowd.

Why does President Obama Hate The Truth On Binyan Mohamed?

P.S. – For more on the British Binyman Mohamed case, please visit Valtin for his take.

119 replies
  1. AZ Matt says:

    Why does President Obama Hate The Truth On Binyan Mohamed?

    Good question to ask Obama directly. I think he is letting the carryovers from the Bush years provide him with information. Maybe Holder is not up to speed. And possibly they don’t want manure on their rose bush, it smells after all. I wish they had not done what they did in San Francisco.

  2. Valtin says:

    Excellent summary, bmaz, of the recent outrageous events in both Britain and the U.S. on the Binyam Mohamed story.

    One might also wish to remember that after the UK High Court submitted to David Miliband’s request by ruling for suppression of the torture evidence, BBC News reported that the Obama administration responded with support for the Court’s action:

    In a statement, the White House said it “thanked the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information”.

    It added that this would “preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens”.

    Obama’s gleeful recognition of British connivance in the cover-up of what has turned out to be British-Pakistani-Moroccan-U.S. torture led to this outburst of protest from Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

    “Hope is flickering. The Obama administration’s position is not change. It is more of the same. This represents a complete turn-around and undermining of the restoration of the rule of law. The new American administration shouldn’t be complicit in hiding the abuses of its predecessors.”

    I think you and I have similar views on what’s going on here. This was my take on the situation today:

    As the details of the gory torture program leak out, it becomes clearer and clearer that the Obama administration’s refusal to declassify relevant documents in Binyam’s case amounts to a terrible cover-up of very serious war crimes. No matter what you think or want to think about Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and the rest of this new Democratic administration, they are treading very close to being implicated in war crimes. They should know this information will leak out, and to move now will save the U.S. credibility, and their own administration serious embarrassment or worse.

    What is happening in Britain right now is sure to spill over to U.S. politics eventually, especially when the questions start to be “What did he know, and when did he know it”…

  3. Dismayed says:

    I think a little patience is in order here. Give the man time to get staffed up and a couple of fish fried before throwing open Pandora’s box.

    There is a lot of pent up rage for a little justice here, but keeping the nation from spiraling into the economic dark ages and shoring up his hold on power has to come first.

    Cheney is still in Washington. He’s likely still got more real power than Obama.

    This is DANGEROUS shit your talking about here, even for a president. Anyone who doesn’t get that doesn’t get the real nature of power in this world.

    • stryder says:

      So,if you don’t want to end up like the kennedys and king you better play along right?
      I hope you know what your implying here

      • Dismayed says:

        I know full well what’s implied, but there are other undesirabe affects to not considering the consequences of actions. This whole thing is a rat’s nest of influence and some people that could truly plunge the economy into chaos, might be very invested in protecting some of these folks.

        Certain Senators may have cause to protect. There are just a million means of push back, and one needs to be in position to make sure that if you start the war you are in position to win it.

        And yes the ultimate implication is also present. It’s one thing to yell charge from the bottom of the hill, quite another from atop the hill where all the landmines can be seen.

    • JohnJ says:

      I tend to agree.

      If not dangerous, when this all comes out there is going to be a MAJOR world firestorm, easily eclipsing our crashing economy. A departing POTUS and his syndicate charged with international war crimes? That’s not a minor side show when the economy won’t wait. Shrub and darth aren’t goin’ anywhere soon. This whole thing could unravel at a blinding pace once the evidence starts to get out.

      If you’ve got a tiger in a sack, you sure can’t let it out a little at a time. It’s gonna come out all at once and you better be ready.

      Dangerous is not some abstract concept here either; think about what these people did and the punishment they are potentially facing. These are nasty authoritarian psychopaths and there are thousands of vulnerable people that can be threatened. These are not honorable people that will go willingly because the court says they have to go to jail now. They can’t get to the POTUS, but most of us would not sleep well knowing that a childhood friend of a distant relative disappeared on vacation one day.

      And remember darth is most likely still listening to EVERYTHING. He’ll know what is being planned, while it’s being planned.

      One of the few stories my dad told about his time in the FBI was that they knew for a long time where a warehouse full of stolen radio equipment was, but they wouldn’t touch it because they mob was involved. This was the FBI afraid of the mob. Power is where it is, not always where it should be.

      • JohnJ says:

        I should also point out that all that shit that darth has collected about everyone is gonna come out if this gets even close to him.

        Think about how the government will function if all it’s top people are fighting criminal accusations at the same time. It will shut it down, right when we need it.

      • skdadl says:

        I disagree. The torture regime both is and is not news in the rest of the world. People have known some things for some time, but public reaction initially was very slow, for many reasons. Awareness has been building, though, and scepticism about all the official boilerplate from anyone’s government has been rising because, in case after case, “national security” has turned out to be code for covering up incompetence, criminality, and worse, much worse.

        The rest of the world is already angry because the rest of the world already knows a lot. You don’t have that tiger still in the sack. It’s too late to pretend that, and if that’s how Obama is thinking, he is going to be seriously damaged internationally pretty fast.

        Maybe he talks to the wrong people. I just saw a photo of Miliband and Hillary greeting each other, and all I could think was, “Well, that’s going to get us precisely nowhere.” Suddenly our politicians look like such dinosaurs to me. Maybe they live in fear in the way you describe, JohnJ, but that’s looking increasingly like a fear from the past, imho. Time for them to catch up; time for us to put them on notice.

        • Loo Hoo. says:

          But how could anyone have not known after the photos of Abu Gahraib were shared? (And the people who shared them deserve some kind of medal.) They just bought what Rumsfeld was selling? Lying eyes and all that?

          • skdadl says:

            I think that the reaction was different in different places. People in the Middle East and probably much of the rest of the Muslim world were enraged immediately because that evidence signified an assault on them and their culture so obviously.

            In Canada and Western Europe, Australia, NZ, etc, though, people reacted more or less as most Americans did, in some confusion, with a lot of questions. It seems to take a lot of people a long time to come to the conclusion that the rot starts at the head, and at least Rumsfeld had to be held responsible. Some of us always believed that on principle anyway and we now know it for sure, but a lot of people are still fumbling their way towards the principles, partly, I guess, because levels of public discourse about these things have been so low for so long. I do think that public opinion has shifted, though — it has here.

      • Dismayed says:

        Thank you, John. That’s the point. We have to realize we don’t know every damn thing.

        I still have faith in Big O. He’s a deep thinker. Not a reactionary, and I believe he has a plan. A smart one, not a knee jerk. At least, I sure hope so. I’m going to be very disappointed if the current appearance is not deceiving.

    • lexalexander says:

      When did the fact that something might be politically dangerous ever keep the U.S. from doing the right thing?

      Oh, wait.

  4. bmaz says:

    What is so freaking dangerous? Are we supposed to tremble in our tracks and refuse to act like human beings to other human beings that have been wronged by our country out of this abiding fear? What is your threshold of fear for abdicating the country’s duties to honor human rights, the Constitution and the rule of law?

    • stryder says:

      “Both cases squarely presented an opportunity for Mr. Obama to make the break from the oppressive rules of secrecy and torture ingrained by the Bush/Cheney regime.”

      This is eerily similar to the tactic Bandar used against Blair.
      International power plays on the grand ole chessboard.
      There’s got to be some serious downside here.
      I haven’t been this optomistic since the Downing street blues/ libby crap.
      If Obama would hold his ground he could change the world.
      In one move he could wipe out the top players in this nightmare .

  5. stryder says:

    Boy, Obama told everybody what they wanted to hear to get elected.
    I’m surprised the 180 didn’t give him a serious neck
    What a whore

  6. Jkat says:

    and.. OT .. but related .. i just rad over at raw story that obama has asked for a delay in rove’s testimony … to boot ..

    grrr… i’ve ’bout had a belly-full of this … no.. no .. i’ve had a belly-full since about ‘03 … this is getting towards revolution-level overload ..

    what’s so hard about it all.. ?? simple tenets of americanism: the rule of law .. equality under the law .. two bedrock principles which suddenly every politician can’t seem to quite grasp …

    oh geeze ship of state .. can’t you hear the people yelling “come about” ..

  7. bobschacht says:

    “If you’ve got a tiger in a sack, you sure can’t let it out a little at a time.”

    I’m afraid Obama’s got several sacks with tigers in’em.

    I just finished watching Frontline’s special on the economic meltdown. That tiger may still be in a bag, but not for long.

    Then there’s the war crimes thingy.

    Then there’s the Afghanistan thingy.

    And tiptoeing through those minefields with a national healthcare plan?

    I sure hope Obama’s got game.

    Bob in HI

  8. SmileySam says:

    The good news is that Binyan Mohamed has stopped his hunger strike and is preparing to return to the UK soon. A UK Dr. declared him fit to travel so hopefully once the Judge see how badly damaged Binyan Mohamed really is, they will be outraged enough to do what’s right for both our countrys and release the 41 pages.

  9. freepatriot says:

    it;s off-topic, but REALLY worth it

    lush limpballs and his million dittohead army got a BIG FUCKING PROBLEM, folks

    the AARP has denounced the repuglitatrd party over the stimulus vote

    the AARP is “warning” repuglitards

    if we was to ignore the possibility of overlap in audience, limpbag’s 20 million dittoheads would be offset by the 40 million AARP members

    if you figure the overlap splits evenly, limpbag’s ignorant legion is looking at being outnumbered at the polls by a 3 to 1 margin (figuring that all limpball listeners are AARP members, 20 million split in two, with one half added to the 20 million AARP members who ain’t dittoheads, that’s 30 million versus 10 million, and that’s lush’s best case scenario)

    and I got more faith in the voting habits amonst AARP members than I have in limpbag’s idiot hoard

    my favorite part was this comment from a freeper:

    Pelosi has stated Republicans don;t need to read the bill because she ASSumes they won;t vote for it anyway and she doesn’t need them to pass it.


    Why the utter stupidity of increasing pressure? Senility?

    could be senility

    could be a desire to bury the repuglitard party for ever in 2010

    I hope the repuglitards stick with the senility scenario

  10. skdadl says:

    Yes — two weeks ago, Miliband and “the White House” (whatever that signifies at the moment) did the two-step Valtin quotes @ 2 as a first response to the extraordinary statement of the High Court judges and the public anger that erupted, obviously catching Miliband by surprise.

    Why was Miliband surprised? Because that double excuse for suppressing evidence of torture — “national security” and “might endanger international relations” — has been SOP for every nation dealing with the Bush-Cheney torture regime and often complicit with it. We have at least eight such cases (that we know of, so there must be more), one of them somewhat like Binyam Mohamed’s, in which we know the U.S. offered the ISI a bounty to capture and interrogate a suspect for over a year (and we became complicit). When these stories come to light, our government and yours always try that same gambit at first, and while our courts have partially resisted it, the two-step has managed to slow things down and muffle public reaction — until now.

    What made a difference in this case was the extraordinary challenge to Miliband of the High Court judges, who are still refusing to be put off and are responding to Binyam Mohamed’s attorneys’ appeals. The media and the public are responding too, at long last. I follow this case through the Guardian every morning, and it just gets more and more promising, and not only for the Brits.

    The conjunction with the Jeppesen and wire-tapping cases in the U.S. (especially as EW and bmaz have been following them) has left me feeling that maybe we are going to be saved by the judges, who are starting to sound uppity. I don’t know how to assess Obama’s boilerplate reactions thus far — it’s kind of amazing to me that he and his team could be unprepared to speak clearly to so many well-known cases. I do know how to assess my own government and opposition leaders, much as I would assess Miliband (and Blair), and I’m coming to think that they are next to irrelevant. If the judges, the media, and the citizens have woken up, do we need to do much more than make that clear to the craven politicians?

  11. BayStateLibrul says:

    I know Obama can multi-task.
    But, I’m not willing to hang Obama on this one, yet.
    The DOJ was so fucked up, Obama is proceeeding very cautiously…
    Has Holder briefed Obama on all the massive fuck-ups…
    In my opinion “too early to call”

  12. freepatriot says:

    here’s another heart warmer, with a back story

    eric cantor created a video using an Aerosmith song to celebrate the repuglitards stiffing Obama and America on the stimulus. The song is an ode to a hooker, and Aerosmith didn’t give permission to use it

    and then the story got GOOD

    in a comments thread where freepi were moaning about the liberals being mean and all, I found this gem:

    Aerosmith can keep there crappy song. Cause in 2010 we will play we are the champion’s when we win a whole bunch of house and senate races.

    so when the repuglitards win this BIG victory that they foresee, they’re gonna celebrate with a Gay Anthem

    guess that will show us

    I think I figured out the repuglitards secret strategy, they’re gonna make us LAUGH ourselves to death long before the 2010 election …

  13. Loo Hoo. says:

    There will be a whole lot of broken-hearted people, not to mention pissed-off if Obama protects torturers. I’m holding out hope that he needs to get the economy on track before he takes on this…yes dangerous…issue.

    As folks pointed out on Sunday, the Justice Department isn’t even together yet. Obama can’t take on everything single handedly.

    He could simply say that this isn’t an issue he’s prepared to take on until the Department is up and running, and remind folks that nobody is being tortured now.

    • bmaz says:

      So how long are you willing to sanction complicity in the obstruction of justice in relation to heinous war crimes and inhuman acts? How long of a grace period is sufficient to let Obama perpetuate inhumanity while he tinkers with the precious dollar? What is the proper grace period we should give this supposed Constitutional scholar and civil rights activist to figure out that what was done to Binyam Mohamed was a fucking inhumane war crime that violated every tenet of national, international and moral law of man? At what point is fealty to money and lack of time on the job no longer an excuse for the sanction of torture and inhumanity?

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        I don’t know. When are his Dept. of Justice people going to be confirmed? Granted, this is not acceptable, but it just seems that he needs some reinforcement here.

      • acquarius74 says:

        Obama knew these issues were awaiting him. Only the illiterate, blind and deaf in America could not have known. Before he was sworn into office he should have settled in his mind how he would act when confrontation time came.

        For the informed, it has been common knowledge that The Dark Side exacts retribution for those who actively oppose them. If that awareness is available to me, one of the most ordinary citizens, then Obama knew it. That is the fight he took on when he announced his candidacy.

        Crises do not put themselves on hold while he is reviewing the situation. He proclaimed that he and his team would be ready to hit the ground running on day-one.

        In my opinion the critical time came for him to uphold the Law or join Bush and Cheney on the Dark Side. IMO he has failed in the worst way.

        I voted for him, in spite of FISA. Now, for me he has become either a much smoother liar than Bush, or a coward too weak to dutifully do the job he sought and won. He has failed to keep his promises.

          • selise says:

            but he’s trying to have it both ways – he also wants the benefits that accrue from a change of course. what will he chose to do if he can’t have it both ways?

          • drational says:

            If Obama intends to address this issue head on, and do something about it, then shouldn’t he be given the opportunity to do so?

            Why must he let this issue be decided in the courts?

            Bmaz, do you think there is such a thing as a secret important for national security, that the citizens are not entitled to know?
            This is the most important question. If you say yes, then you acknowledge that the government does have a right to hide information.
            If you say no, then you are arguing from a position probably not shared by most.

            I am not saying that there are any security-justified secrets associated with the horrendous cases at issue, but the commenters outraged at Obama’s pace cannot possibly know there are not.

            To me the important question is whether Obama is addressing the injustices. And there are 8 years of them to contend with and work out the intricacies. If you can accept that there is such a thing as a good secret, then segregating out the bad secrets and dealing with them publicly might reasonably take more than a month. Especially when there are other pressing problems in the world.

            Every day that goes by that innocent people fail to get justice is a shame, a national embarrassment. I understand the outrage. But I also believe that justice can take time, and that there are authentic security interests that must be counterbalanced with making right on past errors.

            • selise says:

              Bmaz, do you think there is such a thing as a secret important for national security, that the citizens are not entitled to know?

              This is the most important question.

              no, actually it’s not.

              the most question is this: are there any secrets more important for national security than getting this one right?

              because getting this one right, in an open and convincing way is also a matter of national security – as well as an issue of national purpose and morality.

              mfi just left a comment on christy’s thread that gets to the heart of this issue.

              • drational says:

                Agreed that it is important to get this right. But I am not convinced that maintaining privilege means that Obama wants to hide torture.
                Or, as others have posted in prior threads, that Obama is now a “War Criminal”.

                I believe that there are important secrets that must be kept to preserve our security, and I believe that they can be kept and still get this one right.

                For me, I am waiting with optimism, patience and trust that Obama is not the same as Bush. I recognize that I risk being a sucker, but after 8 years, I need a vacation from my cynicism.

                  • drational says:

                    Not required of others. I am just trying to explain in part why I am not yet calling Obama a War Criminal.
                    I am trying to personally reconcile the hope I felt in his candidacy with the disappointment in the direction of his actions in the new administration. And reconcile the horror that may have been done in my name with the belief that we need security. It’s a personal thing and I have not yet figured out what I believe.

                    Selise, the rest of this whine is not for you, but rather a general comment on the EW threads since inauguration:

                    I come to this discussion in Good Faith. I have commented at TNH and EW for >2 years, so yall know me. I am not trying to give “bad frame jobs” or throw out “red herrings” or otherwise try to deceive. I am just trying to communicate how I see possible reasons why Obama and Hillary might not really be War Criminals and Torture enablers.

                    I come to this blog because there are educated voices that usually help me shape my own thoughts. But I realize I had better stop commenting on this issue. I am not quite yet at the degree of certainty that many of the commenters are here on this issue, and it makes me feel like a nonbeliever in a room full of evangelicals. It is not so much fun to explore your thinking with entrenched teachers who prosecute wrong answers (and know the bad ideas in your head are the work of Satan).

                    Fortunately, there are very few trolls who come through these threads. On the other hand, the lack of a usual foil leaves a lot of disgust and sarcasm available for friends who reveal their imperfections. I wish it weren’t like this.

                    • Petrocelli says:

                      I would counter that the depth of wisdom expressed on this blog by Marcy, bmaz, MadDog, WO, et al, is unlike anything on the toobz.

                      You might not agree with them but if you can prove them wrong, they are open to listening.

                      In the meantime, I anxiously wait for Obama to prove them wrong. I hope his peeps read this blog and talk to Horton, Fein & Turley, likkety split.

                    • bmaz says:

                      drational – I am saddened you feel this way, and somewhat surprised. You have indeed been a valued contributor here for a while, and I am familiar with your work at Dkos. First off, the allegation that this is some type of closed minded forum shocks me. I know for a fact that there is a broad range of party affiliations and belief systems here; the one common thread is a respect for the law and a desire to explore facts. You have not now, nor have you ever been stifled or censored here. Robust discussion is always welcome. You are always welcome. I am somewhat biased, of course, but I cannot imagine a more open or intellectually challenging forum for discussion. If you feel otherwise, that is regrettable and our loss.

            • bmaz says:

              Yes I do believe that there are secrets important to national security that the executive should keep secret. I challenge you or anyone else to tell me how that concept protects the inhumanity and criminal actions at issue, and being concealed, in the High Court in England. To my mind, that proposition is an egregious cop out. sources and methods are not at issue; The fact that we sanctioned, condoned and facilitated criminal and inhumane torture is.

              • drational says:

                Is lawyer-client privilege scurrilous obstruction?
                Would you give that up because a prosecutor needs to investigate a really bad crime your client may have committed?
                I’d imagine that a national intelligence service shares information based on the understanding that it is not subject to discovery in another country’s court. If that agreement is worthless, it may reasonably jeopardize the intelligence relationship.
                Would you, as a member of the British executive, give up the precedence of control of secrecy of documents because your agents had done something wrong?

                I understand the need to discover, but I also understand the competing interests which are not necessarily evil as presented here (though they may indeed be).

            • Nell says:

              Drational, you are missing what Obama’s DoJ did in the Mohamend v. Jeppesen Dataplan case. Of course there are probably pieces of possible evidence that the administration would like to keep secret, and they have the perfect right and ability to assert state secrets privilege to the judge during the trial, as those pieces of evidence are considered. But it’s an abuse, and continuation of the serious abuse that Bush’s DoJ initiated, to have whole cases thrown out by asserting state secrets privilege in a blanket manner.

              And it’s an abuse that the Obama campaign ran on ending. (See this post from Greenwald.)

              Apologists for Obama’s behavior in this matter are in a weak position, given the contradictory excuses and justifications sources in his DoJ are throwing out, without even having the stones to go on the record. (See this Greenwald post.)

              They’re stalling for time, they are frantic to avoid having to start serious proceedings for accountability of the previous regime, and they’re willing to close off the possibility of legal redress in U.S. courts for victims of kidnaping and torture to do so.

        • Dismayed says:

          Dude. The guy’s been in office for less than a month – less than a month.

          And Cheney’s in DC with an ear the size of my house and a fist-full of strings.

          You’re an attorney, so I know you know the expression – “If you take a shot at the Emporer, you’d better damn sure kill him”

          I think you are horribly underestimating the complexity of the situation.

          I’m not making excuses, I’m allowing for a reality that is more than meets the eye.

          Give the man a little time. If you had to move right now, you wouldn’t even have your paper weights unboxed in a month.

          The pressure needs to reamain, but allowing for some situational discretion is certainly reasonable at this time.

    • Nell says:

      Then why did the Obama DoJ not ask for an extension from the court, as the ACLU had invited them to?

      And torture is continuing, in the form of force feeding in the “restraint chair” for those on hunger strike, and beatings to extract them from their cells twice a day.

      The “we weren’t ready” excuse won’t fly, because the ACLU has been in touch with the transition since shortly after the election, making clear what they considered the upcoming crucial tests of Obama’s promise of transparency. This appeal in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan was one of them.

      Re Clive Stafford Smith’s claim that the letter from Mohamed to Obama was censored: Whether the copy Obama received was censored or not is unknown. Stafford Smith’s copy was, and he is completely right to raise the question, because it highlights the fundamental issue: The government is doing everything it can to avoid a situation in which the President has undeniable knowledge of war crimes/crimes against humanity committed by the previous administration. They know that would set the clock going on our obligations under the Convention Against Torture, and they want to put that off as long as possible.

  14. JimWhite says:

    Thanks for this, bmaz. The outrages just keep coming and OSBO seems content to do nothing to stem the tide. The folks claiming this is eleven dimensional chess can just go sit on a rook for all I care. Each time the new administration sides with the old administration just makes it that much harder to eventually change things to the appropriate stance.

    As for the danger part, I’m not ready to buy into the direct danger to Obama part, but we certainly have had warnings that these criminals won’t go quietly into the night. Remember Kit Bond’s warning of a shitstorm (okay, he called it a political firestorm, but you get the picture). I think ondelette summed the situation up very well in this post, where he argues that the torture situation is the largest Constitutional crisis since the Civil War. Obama and his administration will not be able to keep a lid on this forever. Too much is known in too much detail for it to be effectively tied in the bag forever. There simply is no choice other than to prosecute those involved. If he doesn’t come around to the appropriate side of this soon, he also will be found guilty, and appropriately so. When will they learn this is not a partisan issue?

  15. wavpeac says:

    educate me. (as there is no better group for this job). It seems to me that if the economy completely fails, then we have a global crises on our hands in which coordinating human rights trials might be irrelevant. The more I read Kruger and others it seems clear to me that we are literally in a fight to save the world economy right now.

    I want him to follow the torture laws. I am sick about what our gov’t did in our name. However, logically, and this is hard for me to really accept, it is true that this is about “past” behaviors…and while I know that Obama could abuse this power and that he has retained a kind unitary executive privilege that I do not support, it’s possible that he knows what he will do with it and that this buys him time on this issue for now.

    I work with suicidal personality disordered clients, and maintaining a hierarchy based on the most imminent problem in a time of crises often looks “wrong” from the outside. I might have a client who is losing her home and suicidal. Her boy friend cheated and beat her up in a fight. She has a bottle of pills and wants to die. The first thing I do is deal with the imminent danger. The bottle of pills comes first. If she loses her house while I focus on saving her life…so be it. If she goes back to him I still focus on the bottle of pills and getting her to regulate her emotions so that she will commit to living the solutions and building a better life. Torture laws might be further down on the hierarchy right now. THEN I go back and deal with the rest once she is stabilized. To outsiders this might look like I am missing the problem. However, this method works really well when the problems are too numerous to solve quickly. I don’t mean to be defending Obama here. I am a cynic in regard to him. I know that EW and Bmaz have made the point that he should be able to juggle more than one ball. I agree. However, I still think that dealing with the current economic crises is in fact juggling many balls. It would come first on the hierarchy because if we lose this fight…human rights won’t exist at all.

    I really think that if the economy fails…it will not matter. And as I have said, because of my position in having dealt with the predatory lenders, the fact that the fraud still remains a secret to most of society, says to me that the worst is still yet to come. Something far more sinister continues to go on with these loans. The number of people affected by this is huge. I have e-mailed back and forth with many who were just like me. I fear that the economic picture is so imminently dangerous right now that it renders the issue of torture, bushco’s crimes irrelevant. I could be wrong, but I still think that folks here and everywhere are underestimating the danger ahead in regard to the economy. Right now as the unemployment sky rockets many of us are without health care. That means that the whole medical system could collapse. Less and less of us have insurance and can afford it. When I think of the implications of the domino affect ahead of us, it’s hard to imagine what the world will look like.

    I don’t hear a single economist saying that this situation is even close to under control. I don’t hear any of them saying they “know” of a solution that will work.

    I was wrong about Pelosi…I thought she would change her mind about impeachment but she did not. I am likely wrong here, however, I hold out that the economic picture is the top priority and that these other issues really do not have the same kind of immediacy.

    I hope I am wrong…but right now the biggest human rights issue is the economy. (and I am sickened by the torture)

    • selise says:

      we are literally in a fight to save the world economy right now.

      absolutely and completely agree with this statement, with the added emphasis on world (aside: i asked a q on nationalization at fdl just now (@30, 42, 52), if you have any insights would be grateful for them).

      also agree about focusing on triaging the issues. but in some ways this is a web and not just a hierarchy. imo we’re going to need all the global cooperation we can get, and doing the right thing wrt to torture and our own role in that, well it might help.

      note bias alert: i want fair trials for them all, so i could be rationalizing in favor of my desired outcome.

  16. joanneleon says:

    Blair and Brown vs. Bush and Obama.
    The changeover in government from Bush to Obama will involve a lot of changes in personnel because they were political appointees, and other necessary housecleaning. But when Blair stepped down and Brown was elected, there probably was no such turnover in personnel. Blair and Brown worked like partners, from all accounts I’ve read.

    My guess is that while Obama has less incentive to protect members of the Bush government, the same is not true on the other side of the pond.

    I’m not trying to provide excuses here, I’m just relating thoughts I hadn’t considered before now that concern “clean ups” which involve other governments. This is going to be very complicated when others, who have not had a “regime change” are involved. It might result in bringing down other governments as we straighten out our mess. What is the best way to deal with a situation like that where a strong ally like the UK is involved? I would say that there needs to be a full out disclosure of everything that happened — that this is the only way to set things to rights. But I can certainly understand how complicated the situation is. For example, could Obama’s disclosure of all documents result in Blair and/or Brown being tried for war crimes?

    • skdadl says:

      For example, could Obama’s disclosure of all documents result in Blair and/or Brown being tried for war crimes?

      In Blair’s case, I certainly hope so. Brown is not vulnerable in the same way; he and Blair worked different bailiwicks and came to detest each other. Brown is now probably complicit in some cover-ups (especially the Prince Bandar threats re the BAE inquiry), as Miliband is becoming, but the British public never have been happy with these adventures and are obviously even less patient than Americans are with the cover-ups.

      Honestly, the citizens of other democracies will be grateful for the help if you come clean about war crimes in which we may have been complicit. We’re trying to call our own miscreants to account. Why would you help them to hide, which is all you’re doing if you keep reproducing the State Dep’t boilerplate? We want the truth as much as you do.

  17. wavpeac says:

    selise…that’s a really important point in regard to national security. I can’t agree more that we need to address this issue but I fear that we are really on the verge of a collapse orchestrated by terrorists. I may be crazy, and maybe that’s the best reason to put this on the front burner.

    Perhaps…facing the truth about our economy would allow us to put this first.

    • phred says:

      we are really on the verge of a collapse orchestrated by terrorists BushCo

      There fixed it for you.

      FWIW, when did the United States stop being the “home of the brave”. There is an awful lot of “be very very afraid” running through this thread. I didn’t buy it from Cheney. I don’t buy it now.

      If we don’t stand up for what is right, right now, who will? And when?

      The economy will collapse or not irrespective of Obama’s warm and loving embrace of torturers, the two are not mutually exclusive nor even complementary.

      Thus far, Obama has been a disappointment on both. Had he appointed a better economic team, I would be more willing to give him time. But instead the Geithner/Summers act has shown no signs of adopting the Swedish approach rather than the Japanese approach to the banks, so the economy will continue its decline. Meanwhile, Obama has actively endorsed the State Secrets approach in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Where is all this “wait and see” optimism coming from?

      I would remind those who suggest that invoking State Secrets is legitimate, that it is explicitly not permissable to hide criminal conduct behind a veneer of classification.

      The time is now to speak up and demand better of the administration. Clearly, they are not about to do the right thing on their own.

      • selise says:


        btw, your comments against a T&R process provoked me to rethink my views… and i am now convinced that you were right all along. the only justification for a T&R process over fair trials in the same system of justice that applies to the rest of us is that the guilty are willing to take down the country in order to protect themselves. if that’s really the case let it be said publicly so that everyone knows what is at stake and why.

  18. alabama says:

    The speed with which Obama disappoints us on human rights amounts to a kind of malingering wehn compared to the speed with which bmaz diabolizes Obama.

  19. JTMinIA says:

    Is there any chance that more blame should go to H. Clinton and less to Obama? One reason for her [putative] obstruction might be: to have it come out more openly that we, under Bush, have rendered people for torture would make people ask under which other presidents have we also had people rendered.

  20. Mary says:

    33 – ” do you think there is such a thing as a secret important for national security, that the citizens are not entitled to know?
    This is the most important question
    That’s not even a question, it’s a bad frame job.

    No one saying that there are not things that can be kept secret – the nukes launch codes, technology, some kinds of trade negotiations, etc.

    While there can be some complex issues and hard calls, these matters that are facing Obama are not in that category (as far as the determination of whether the information should be classified and withheld from the public – they do have their own complex issues, but that’s not one of them.)

    The fact that our Executive is not, and should not be, allowed to commit crimes and then “classify” them to keep them secret is such a foundational concept that the Presidents themselves have acknowledged it, in writing, in their published Executive Orders on classification.

    Not one President has been willing to assert, in writing, that they have the power to classify crimes of the Presidential office.


    Sec. 1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations. (a) In no case shall information be classified in order to:

    (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;
    (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;

    (3) restrain competition; or

    (4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security

    You either have a rule of law, or a rule of Presidential whim.

    Why must he let this issue be decided in the courts?”

    Because “this issue” is crime. Presidential crime, Executive branch crime, still – crime. And not crimes of administrative excess – but vicious and depraved criminal sadism. It’s place is in an open court.

    Obama does not “just need more time” on most of these issues any more than Bush just needed more time to fnd the Iraqi nukes. It’s a matter of policy and he’s had two years of policy advisors during his campaign. Certainly, if he felt he merely needed more time, that is exactly and precisely what could have been conveyed to Miliband and to the High Court.

    It’s not like “I’m sorry” and it doesn’t involve words that are hard to say. Clinton merely sends off a request to Miliband to be passed on to the High Court, stating that the new administration needs some time to review the matter and make its determination and would the court grant them xyz days.

    It baffles me that people think this is so hard, or that somehow even a request for extensions of time in these proceedings simply can not be made until all Obama’s “people” are in place. I just don’t understand how so many have this concept and hold to it so tightly, especially when there are so many and so numerous instances of Obama getting extensions in those proceedings where he actually wanted them.

    The failure to ask for time to review means he doesn’t want or need it guys. He’s not going with Bush’s positions out of a failure of time to review, bc he isn’t asking the tribunals for time to review. Instead, he’s plowing forward with the Bush stances and using some propagandized prestidigitation to distract at home by saying they are “looking into” state secrets uses.

    It’s not so much sleight of hand, as just sleight.

  21. Mary says:

    26 – I’ll take a stab, but not so much at educating as at ranting about my beliefs (btw, I never thought Pelosi would impeach bc I’ve thought for a very long time she didn’t want all the dirt involving all the Dems to come out with it – she liked using non-impeachment to direct all the focus on Bush).

    A. The economy has failed, nationally and globally. This isn’t an “if” it is a “how much, how long, etc.” type of issue.

    B. Obama can, and already has, made policy decisions about how he is going to respond and has delegated out his policy decisions to a response team. I’m not a fan of a lot of his policies, or of his response team (I’m thinking your Kruger is a typo for Krugman? – I’d be much happier and more comforted to see Stiglitz, Krugman and Roubini leading his team than Summers and Geithner, but it is what it is)

    C. How Obama does or does not respond to his response team or his policy choices is not a 24 hour a day job and having Obama sittng in a locked room, looking at his reflection and clapping harder for hours a day won’t make the crisis more or less. It’s not a matter of “diverting” him from the economic crisis to have him also do other things, and some of them have much shorter time frames than his economic policy implementations.

    D. Obama’s economic response team has one priority – he has several and that’s why he has many teams. The world doesn’t stop while the economic crisis is addressed. To put it in context of what it sounds like you may deal with more frequently, if someone you are working with has horrible issues of depression with a sick family member do you tell them that, in addition to getting the best medical advice they can and offering all the support they can, they should also abandon every other piece and element of their life and focus wholly and solely on the illness? The economy is not “the bottle of pills” in your example, it is the foreclosure on the home and loss of job etc. It isn’t susceptible to a magic bullet, an immediate change, etc. You have to plug away on it, you don’t tell the person with the bottle to take as many pills as they want, bc the really important thing is their job and that’s all you want to talk to them about.

    E. The economy is a crisis, but here’s another aspect. Depraved societies fail. As long as Obama encourages the nation to be the addict with the pills, they aren’t going to be able to keep their home, hold their jobs, etc. Depraved societies fail. If you don’t deal with the ultimate issues of the depravities, you will only have cascades of failure.

    F. (and maybe A, Z, or A to Z) It’s not a question of “the economy” or “the war” or “torture” or “illegal surveillance” etc. as “the” important issue in the heirarchy. The important issue in the heirarchy is truth.

    If you knew the bottle had candy instead of drugs, you’d respond differently, wouldn’t you? If you knew the boyfriend was raping her child instead of helping her find a new job, or that she lost her job because she threatened a co-worker with a knife and not because her boss made a pass at her – – all those things factor into how you respond.

    The truth heads the hierarchy and when there is such dedication to obfuscating and covering up the truth, bad decisions are inevitable.

    BTW – don’t discount the issues of the econommy. Instead, I’ve been very frustrated that Obama has not included some of the “voices of doom” who have caused me depression and anxiety, but who have been getting it right, over and over. If he can find time to have McCain over for dinners and champion Joe Lieberman, but not have a closed door sitdown with Roubini and Krugman and Stiglitz, I just don’t buy that his inability to do anything else is bc he is so devoted to the economy. If he was, he would have made a priority of involving those guys in his approach. Instead, he went for building a politically connected economic crew.

  22. Mary says:

    42 –

    The economy will collapse or not irrespective of Obama’s warm and loving embrace of torturers, the two are not mutually exclusive

    Damn I wish I could do that. Thanks phred.

    • phred says:

      You’re welcome Mary : ) But I must say, one of your most admirable qualities is your attention to detail and depth.

      drational, like Mary, I am sorry you are suddenly feeling unwelcome. One of my favorite things to do here is argue, it’s how I learn. And like Petrocelli, I dearly dearly hope that Obama proves me wrong, by turning away from the abusive use of state secrets, opening up the myriad abuses of BushCo to public scrutiny, and dramatically changing his approach to the economic crisis.

      However, it is because these crises are all so critically important to the future of our country, that I feel compelled to be blunt in my criticisms of Obama’s nascent administration. If we keep quiet and bide our time, how will they know we disapprove? What will motivate them to change course, before it becomes too late for them to do so?

      I really do think now is the time to complain and complain loudly while such complaints may yet have an effect. And if and when Obama holds torturers accountable, restores our economy to a well-regulated and balanced basis, and repudiates the most insidious policies (pixie dust, secrecy, signing statements, etc.) of the imperial Presidency, I will happily join the chorus singing his praises. That is my fondest wish. But until that time comes, I’ll be nipping at his heels to get him (and Congress!) to do the right thing.

  23. orionATL says:

    today scott horton introduces THE key word into the public discussion:





    if there is to be any public attack on the bush/obama policies then this is the key word to employ and it needs to be employed loudly and repeatedly,

    but never histrionically.

    and employed along with the historical context in which the u.s. Constitution was conceived.

    tyranny as a distinct, ever present reality to these folks.

    it is a distinct, ever-present reality to a select few of us these days, but we don’t recognize that fact.

    go read scott horton’s “no comment” column today in harper’s – “the enemy combatant canard”.

  24. Mary says:

    drational – if you were being fair, you’d admit that being in the same room with evangelicals (who think that if we just trust him enough, without being critical, Obama will save us) works more than one way?

    Why are you so upset? I understand that you are, but not the why. On the one hand you say you want to explore your ideas – that means someone telling you if they think you are wrong and telling you why. I sure tried to do that and I don’t really see any response to my whys, just that you didn’t like me saying your question wasn’t a question, it was a way to try to frame to get the response you wanted.

    I just don’t understand why it is hurtful on a personal level to point out that Obama could have asked for time and didn’t, or that allowing Executive branch crimes to be concealed by state secrets isn’t a matter of national security and no President has ever tried to claim it was (Bush just keep trying to pretend crimes weren’t involved)

    I like to read your comments and as you know, I have commented positively on them many times when I agree (heck, I don’t agree with EW all the time either and I don’t think her feelings are hurt?) and I’ve rec’d your diaries etc. Maybe it’s just a bad day, but on a topic as important as the US continuing to be a state sponsor of torture, when you offer up “Obama just needs more time” it doesn’t make sense to get personally hurt by the response that, as a fact matter, he didn’t even bother to ask for more time. Or to be upset that an argument that we just “have to trust” Obama to only invoke state secrets when it is good for us would be met with a different response than arguing that we have to trust Bush to only invoke state secrets when it is good for us.

    You aren’t “imperfect” if you disagree with me, but you need to be willing to either fight a point or concede one if you want to explore your concepts. Otherwise, you may as well rent an echo chamber. But I still like reading your comments and will still look for your kos posts.

    • drational says:

      Oh Mary,
      I am not going anywhere else- just gonna refrain from putting up the softballs in these torture threads. You and Bmaz know so much more about these issues than do I. I readily admit one could be thoughtlessly “evangelical” with Obama. I also readily admit you may be 100% right in your certainty.

      I am not sure I can tell you why this hurts on a personal level. I’ll try. I know you are “morally right” to abhor torture and believe that nothing justifies it. I feel the same way.
      Backed up by that I think you see ANY impediment to discovery and punishment of torture morally evil. I think that is the righteous path. I want to be morally as righteous, but for whatever reason am not quite there.
      Here is why. I think a good person might have a good reason, a morally justifiable reason, for impairing a certain type of torture investigation.
      If you ask me what this reason is, I am certain I can’t tell you anything you will accept.

      So when I express my morally compromised position, I feel judged, and guilty, because I recognize full well that I am willing to accept injustice for some theoretical greater good. In a prior thread, commenters concluded Obama is a war criminal and/or Nazi-like, and I certainly feel placed in the same category for my sin.

      If you will recall, you and I disagreed on Goldsmith, Comey, and Mueller. I was willing to give them some time off for good behavior, but whenever I said that, yall would get so disgusted, and the expressions of disgust made me feel ashamed of my “moral ambiguity” in forgiveness. So I kept my mouth shut, but still feel grateful those guys said no when they did.

      I am not sure you will understand what I am saying, but I appreciate you asking. Basically, it is something inside of me, but it is most certainly a response to the righteous indignation that accompanies these torture threads. Like with the Goldsmith/Comey issue, I’ll just keep my mouth shut.
      As per 60: “You might not agree with them but if you can prove them wrong, they are open to listening.” Not that I think you are “right” (whatever that means), I just don’t think there is any way to prove you wrong.

      • bell says:

        drational, i haven’t been following these threads too closely but i think you as well as mary and bmaz make good points on issues that have a fair degree of ambiguity to them… it is easy to take a hard and fast position when one cuts out the more complex issues, but i don’t think anyone is trying to do that intentionally including yourself… perhaps you feel more burdened by this but i wouldn’t let it.. it is good to have different viewpoints in order to more fully understand the many nuances of these topics…

      • Petrocelli says:

        Unlike the Legal geniuses and other great minds here, my forte is in the field of yoga/meditation, which places a lot of value in faith, without giving enough proof beforehand. That Marcy and the others accept my blathering from time to time is testament to their open-mindedness.

        For instance, I thought it was a positive sign that Geithner’s fumbled speech was met with a sell-off on Wall Street. I thought it was a sign that he was rethinking his original ideas and decided they had screwed up. Then, in the Hearing, as the Repubs continued to press him, his non- responses reinforced my thought. Could I prove it ? No, so I kept quiet about it.

        Working without proof takes a lot of patience and leads to many pioneering ideas. However, in the case of Binyan Mohamed, Obama & Co. do not need to reinvent the Wheel, they simply need to uphold the Constitution. Proof is invaluable in the Court of Law and also in yoga/meditation.

        Unfortunately, these days Comedians seem to be more insightful and more truthful than politicians and yoga gurus.

        I quote one of my faves, D.L. Hughley in assessing the current admin and all previous ones, “If it walks like a Duck and talks like a Duck, it’s a Motherf*cking Duck !”

        Please stick around and give your inputs, we all learn from them, no matter how others respond.

  25. bmaz says:

    I would, generally and not in response to any one person, like to point out a couple of things. First, I reiterate generally what I said above at 63. Secondly, this is far from an echo chamber here. So far from it that even Marcy and I go at it on some issues. You didn’t see it, but we were doing just that earlier this morning. That is okay; passionate and informed discussion is good. Thirdly, all should understand that there are many purposes to a blog such as this one. Among those, one of them is to move opinion and discussion by the relevant actors that comprise our government on certain issues. That should not be taken as a sign that the bigger picture isn’t appreciated; it is simply a function of what we are trying to do.

  26. maryo2 says:

    “On the advice of his intelligence advisers, the president could have authorized coercive interrogation methods like those used by Israel and Great Britain in their antiterrorism campaigns.”
    – John Yoo, January 2009 editorial

    What an interesting choice of words. Given that Washington did threaten to withdraw intelligence-sharing with Britain, were there other threats to withdraw intelligence-sharing?

  27. lllphd says:

    OT – real quick –

    murray waas has a fascinating piece up on tpm right now:

    several of our bushie friends have been refusing to cooperate with doj investigations into the us atty firings. so bad it got that the investigators sought and got criminal prosecutors to take over the investigations, and grand juries have been empaneled.

    he quotes a former prosecutor saying that it will be much harder for these folks to claim exec priv with a federal criminal case involved. so this could all get very interesting.

    to bring it round to these matters, well sorta…
    holder has to know these things are going on. given that he does, he may be choosing to go after folks from the us atty angle for now and reserve taking a bold position on the torture and state secrecy stuff for now, in order to buy time to do it right so it will take and not fall apart before the supremes, for instance.

    now, ianal, but i can see strategic sense to all this. if that’s what’s going on, of course. i mean, if these folks like harriet and bolten are facing time, they may be more willing to share info on the more dire torture and domestic spying stuff.

    what think?

  28. bobschacht says:

    Wow. Marcy’s away, and we’re still going at it, full speed ahead.

    I remember that our greatest presidents, Washington & Lincoln, did not become great because of their cleverly conceived plans, but how they reacted to events as they unfolded. And I’ll bet that they did not always make the right choice the first time they were confronted with an issue.

    Obama has been thrust into the meat grinder of multiple simultaneous crises. We know he tries to think strategically, not just about the tactics of the moment, but the long range consequences. And those long range consequences of each crisis will interact with each other. I suppose that Obama is devoting considerable attention to those long range interactions, and trying to think strategically. So I’m willing to cut him some slack in the short term.

    On the other hand, the Good Book tells us that how one reacts to the small things in life tells us something about how one may react to the big things that one will encounter. I think we have some mixed measures about that, and they worry me, as they worry Mary and others.

    I watched the Frontline special last night on the economic meltdown– I recommend the show’s web page to those who want to see the substance. Sen Chris Dodd observed that the meltdown in recent months has been the economic equivalent of 9/11. I fear it may be worse than that, because 9/11, as bad as it was, did not threaten the very form and shape of our government. The economic crisis is indeed threatening our civil society on many levels, and we’re not out of the woods yet.

    Prayers, as well as good discussion and advice, are in order for the President and his Cabinet. The Bush maladministration has saddled Obama with multiple horrors.

    Oh, and have I mentioned how glad I am that John McCain is not president?

    Bob in HI

  29. randiego says:

    I’m late to the game here…

    I think these are absolutely critical issues that look pretty bad at this point in time. This issue particularly – use of State Secrets to coverup malfeasance and worse – and FISA, and yesterday’s escalation of the Afghani war/occupation are all issues that we’ll need to keep the heat on.

    But some of the overheated rhetoric I’m seeing just drives me nuts. Obama is who we knew him to be, I think. The alternative of John McCain is absolutely positively unthinkable, and today is Day 30 of the new administration.

    Thanks for the education and skeptical eye y’all are keeping on these critical issues. It’s an essential service you guys are providing. I feel like I’m in class almost everyday digging in to these threads.

  30. WilliamOckham says:

    I think there’s something really important going wrong with the conversation (here and elsewhere) among those of us who are opposed to the torture and detention policies of the Bush administration. At some level, we’re all disappointed and frustrated with some of the actions that the Obama administration has taken. Where I think we’re going wrong is that we’re setting up false choices among ourselves (do we criticize Obama or not, how big a stink do we make, etc.) while failing to effectively fight back against the torture crowd. The key to building an effective strategy is understanding the nature of the opposition, what they want to achieve, and how they are planning to achieve it. I want to lay out how I see the battlefield and from there what I think our strategy should be. For those of you who disagree with my strategy, it would be helpful to me if you are explicit about whether you disagree because you disagree with my assessment of the battlefield.

    Our opposition is composed of two primary groups. The core group are the true believers: the policymakers, lead implementers, and the avidly pro-torture intellectuals. These people are committed to institutionalizing the torture and detention policies, avoiding prosecution for their actions, and establishing a precedent for Presidential tyranny. They very much need to hide the fact that they are opposed to the rule of law from their allies, the people they’ve coopted, corrupted, and conned into supporting torture, cruelty, and indefinite detention. This second group, the fellow travelers, the venal, and the dupes, includes most of the Republican party, a significant part of the Dems in D.C., most of the pundit class, much of the bureaucracy, and a large chunk of the public.

    The key to winning this battle is to understand how the true believers suckered their followers. They used secrecy, deceit, misdirection, and others’ presumption of good will to entangle people in their perfidious schemes by gaining their ill-informed acquiescence. I’m not trying to absolve the followers of their guilt, but highlight a crucial distinction between them and Cheney and his ilk who really are interested in subverting our system of government to establish dictatorship (albeit with elections) with a President who can throw his political opponents in jail and torture them. The Cheneyites continue to control the parameters of the debate and it frustrates me that we can’t break out of that.

    I believe that the real battle right now revolves around the Cheneyites’ efforts to coopt the Obama administration into acquiescing to the torture regime. This started right after the election with all those stories about how it would be impossible to close Guantanamo and Obama would discover that torture was essential, blah, blah, blah. But the press stories were only one part of the equation. There were the shenanigans they pulled in the various court cases, too. They wanted to try to lock Obama and his team into their policies. Getting the Republicans in the Senate to delay the confirmation of Holder (and Dawn Johnsen and Marty Lederman) was yet another part of the strategy. I think we can all agree that every time Obama appears to continue a Bush-Cheney torture or detention policy, we’re losing.

    With all that being said, how should we fight this? The first lesson of political combat is to divide your opponents. We need to pit the true believers against the hangers-on. The last thing we want to do is to make the followers identify with the cabal. That means this:

    But the salient fact is that, as with their actions in the wiretapping cases, al-Haramain and Mohamed ve Jeppesen, the Obama Administration has done absolutely nothing to change the egregious policy. They just keep following the Bush/Cheney script

    is a rhetorical error. I’m not saying bmaz is wrong. On the contrary and most unfortunately, he’s exactly right. And if we want to change that, we need to change the nature of our criticism. Instead of highlighting the facts that give aid and comfort to the Cheneyites and causes Obama and his team to ignore us (they’ll be thinking “Nothing!, those DFH’s don’t appreciate all the stuff we’ve done in just a month”), we need to cast our criticism in way that drives a wedge between between the past and current administration. We need to get under Obama’s skin. We need to understand what will get the media’s attention and what will be ignored. Here are some suggestions:

    1. Accuse Obama of acting too precipitously. He and his people think of themselves as careful thinkers and planners. Yet, they’ve taken positions supporting past policies without knowing all the facts.

    2. Accuse Obama’s team of incompetence. That’ll get their attention. Obama has no particular connection to the lawyers who authored these briefs. And I have absolutely no compunctions about making them take the fall. Point out how they’ve failed to follow through on his policy positions. We can give him room for a policy reversal.

    I hope everybody sees what I’m suggesting here. Give Obama the benefit of the doubt, not because he deserves it, but because it’s useful. “It’s not the King, it’s his terrible advisers we need to get rid of” is an old fairy tale, but it’s still around for a reason. It allows us to separate policy from person, making an about-face while saving face. The earlier we can execute on it, the better. I’m not particularly interested in making excuses for Obama, but I do want to give him room to change course as long as that seems possible. We should vehemently criticize the policies, but it’s way too early to lump him in with Bush and Cheney.

    Another tactic we can use is to throw the words of Cheney in Obama’s face. In that CBS interview, Cheney said:

    If [Obama] were to seek my advice – he hasn’t, but if he were to seek my advice – I would say, look, before you go out and start to make policy based on the campaign rhetoric we heard last year, what you need to do is to sit down and find out what we’ve done, find out how we did it, what the justification was for it, what kind of results it’s produced, and then make an informed judgment about whether or not you want to keep these things.

    I think it’s fair and effective to ask: Did Obama even do as much as Dick Cheney suggested? That’s a pretty low bar.

    [I have a few other things to say about this, but I have a paying job to attend to.]

    • phred says:

      WO, thanks for the thought provoking comment. I have a quick question for you… How do you distinguish the “true believers” from the “followers”. What criteria do you use to determine who is who?

    • bmaz says:

      I think Sir William of Ockham has made an eloquent and germane point. And I am afraid he is right about me. I am right about this regrettably very right I fear; by the same token, my passion may get ahead of optimal messaging, and it may have here. I want to be clear, I do not now, nor have I ever thought Obama was a bad or nefarious character, quite the opposite, I consider him to be good. I do think he has, and disturbingly consistently so, gone down some bad roads to bad policies. Policies eerily similar to the hell we thought we had just escaped. There is a better way to frame it considering we are so early in his tenure. I am going to give that a try.

      I appreciate very much his suggestions and I think they are points that we all, myself included, ought to keep in mind as we do our work.

  31. wavpeac says:

    I am just saying that I think we are in a horrible crises. One that is bigger than 9/11 which stopped the country cold. I agree with every thing you said Mary…and agree that the economy is many issues at once not just one. It’s like having someone pitch 15 balls at once. And I believe Obama is missing this one. Why? I don’t know for sure. Maybe he is a dictator no better than bushco…maybe he is a war criminal the likes of Hitler. Maybe his part of the new world order (as my husband would argue). I don’t know the answer to that. I will agree he is making a big mistake here. But my point remains that in my life…with me newly unemployed from a job I worked for 12 years…with my husband employed barely, with us both without health care for the next few months…torture is bad, but I am struggling every day with all my energy to keep my house, my kids fed, gas in the car and life as normal as possible. With each passing day it gets harder. At some point…torture as horrible as it is…becomes the least of my worries. Maslow’s hierarchy.

  32. JTMinIA says:

    WO –

    I believe that you’re making a mistake by assuming that the co-opted pols and the conned public are similar in their motivations. The conned public is, IMO, first driven by a desire for revenge and fear. When faced with evidence that they got revenge on the wrong people and/or feared the wrong things, defense mechanisms kick in and they deny the new data. In contrast, I think that the pols were never really driven by primary motives. Instead, they know what drove the public and jumped on board, and are now just covering their a$$es.

    It isn’t hard to get the pols to change their tune. Just alter the direction of the wind. The hard one to fix is the guilt-driven defenses of the public. My best example of this is my father-in-law. He’s your basic, decent, but-always-voted-Republican guy. He oscillates between raw anger and great sadness over what our gov’t has done, but can’t get any farther than that. He just wants it to go away … not be true … not have to be thought about. When the conversation moves in that direction, he bounces back and forth between anger and sadness, but never gets any closer to resolution. Getting people to deal with what’s been done in their name and with their consent is very, very difficult.

    I have no comment on the actual pre-torture people. I just can’t wrap my head around them.

    ps. WRT to my knowledge of the women on Star Trek … I could admit to the details on such, but then I’d die of embarrassment. Similar to torture, there are some aspects of one’s life as a 12-year0old boy that need not be analyzed deeply. But at least I was only “abusing” myself.

  33. JTMinIA says:

    Because it probably wasn’t clear, let me spell out why I think it’s important to consider what’s going on in the minds of the “conned public” and why this might make Obama correctly move slower than some of us would otherwise wish.

    Throwing something like “you allowed torture to happen – even encouraged it – so you are responsible” in the face of the typical person is not a good way to get said person to face up to what has been done in their name. That approach (which gets called “flooding” in psych jargon) often causes more grief than good and can make it harder to achieve what you want in the longer run. Instead, the slow approach is usually more effective. You get the person to move one step at a time from where they are now to where they need to be. For a lot of people, they are only now getting to the point of acknowledging that we not only made piles of naked men and raped a number of women, but we flat-out tortured some people. (And before you attack me for suggesting that torture is somehow “higher” or “worse” than rape, please let me say that what really seems to matter is whether it’s something that’s new to them … something they don’t hear about Americans doing to Americans all the time … as well as how they’d feel about being done to them.)

    In other words, maybe Obama knows more about human nature than we’re used to. Maybe he’s trying to heal the country, instead of just punish (or not punish) the criminal. In a way, this is my offering to drational. I’m saying that s/he’s not alone in not yet giving up on the whole hope thing.

  34. JTMinIA says:

    Before anyone gets angry at our adolescent thread-jacking, may I point out that, in Day of the Dove, Mara [Jeri Lynn Mooney] at one point implies to Kirk that she’s afraid of being tortured by him. Kirk – representing all that is good in [North] Americans – says that the Federation doesn’t do that.

    In other words, have faith, dear reader, we’ll be back to being the good guys by 2268.

  35. Mary says:

    65 –

    I also think a good person might have a good reason to do something that is not good. I kind of think the path to hell IS paved with good intentions and there’s a reason that saying has been around so long. Where I think we hit loggerheads is that I need proof of good intentions. But the fact that we hit loggerheads over something isn’t the same as people lining up against you. And for that matter, I don’t think you should take it personally. I remember way back when, there was a thread about having Comey come to testify and there were a gazillion responses and IIRC EVERY SINGLE ONE of them, except me, was pretty much gushy over Comey. bmaz wasn’t around back then, but to this day LHP and I are loggerheads on that.

    I absolutely can understand wanting to have someone to believe in, to think that there are good people trying to do good things for good reasons. But I tend to tally up. I do over the whys of my tallies though, so that someone can correct them or offer up competing issues.

    Here is why. I think a good person might have a good reason, a morally justifiable reason, for impairing a certain type of torture investigation.
    If you ask me what this reason is, I am certain I can’t tell you anything you will accept.

    Well, you never know until you try *g* Legally, I don’t think there will ever be much on that front, especially vis a vis impairing investigation. There are loads of ways to protect actually “protectable” information. I am actually able to offer up all kinds of complex reasons why there are so many threads on all of this that Obama would be reluctant to pull them – the ripples will go far. That is the case, though, with most really really bad things. Pedophiles in the priesthood would be an example.

    Would a “good” person have a “good” reason for covering it up? You’d have to really sell me on that and it would take facts, which is not to say that I don’t see all the possible and very significant adverse consequences. Probably my Methodist upbringing, but I do believe that there are consequences to actions. You don’t get a karmic bye, or a fast, private absolution – you have consequences and those consequences change the world, bc they change you and the world is your perception of it.

    So when I express my morally compromised position, I feel judged, and guilty, because I recognize full well that I am willing to accept injustice for some theoretical greater good.

    I don’t think you should feel compromised by that, bc I think most people, myself included, are. But I think you always have to call it for what it is – an injustice. An you always have to be honest about what you compromised. What bothers me isn’t that there would never or ever be compromise (although I readily admit that the ability of so many D & R Bushies to not only acquiesce in and support the injustice but to so actively cover them up and propagandize them to remake torturers into patriots and put lie on the lips of those who told the truth makes me much less compromise oriented now than 4 years ago).

    What I can’t do is compromise without facts to demonstrate why it is necessary and, even more importantly, without recognition of the injustice and attempted reparation. I’ve used the word before, but all of the Bush criminals want plea bargains without allocution. That is pretty much anathema to me.

    I don’t think Obama is a Nazi; but I do think that he runs very close to the edge, right here and right now, of being involved in criminal obstruction and I also fear from what I am seeing that he is actively contemplating future activities that are war crimes. And in that context, I don’t think that you can sit back and trust, I think you have a duty to try to hold feet to the fire. Just like Krugman and Roubini et al have tried over and over to fight the battle for what they think will actually help save us, even though they knew when the handwriting was on the wall as to what Obama would actually push for and what the Dems in Congress would actually make possible.

    If you will recall, you and I disagreed on Goldsmith, Comey, and Mueller. I was willing to give them some time off for good behavior, but whenever I said that, yall would get so disgusted, and the expressions of disgust made me feel ashamed of my “moral ambiguity” in forgiveness. So I kept my mouth shut, but still feel grateful those guys said no when they did.

    I love a y’all now and then, but keep in mind that there are and always have been way more people at FDL who did cut Goldsmith and Comey (Mueller didn’t come up as much, but when he did, him as well) slack, or who even put them on pedastals. LHP and Christy still put Comey’s name out all the time as someone with integrity. I think you sell yourself short to think that there are not lots of people in your camp. I tended to believe, and still do believe, that the reasons for Goldsmith and Comey’s actions were personal liability considerations related to FISA court issues and threats that were taking place at the same time and I’ve said why. Others, like you, think Goldsmith and Comey were just on the side of law.

    When I argue and list out facts, I don’t mean that to be an expression of disgust, but I do try to explain, in large part bc I am not always sure that everyone is operating off the same facts and I think that considering them and having new ones brought in is something that may change someone’s mind.

    Just as an example, let’s take the recent press on the Mohamed story. His story has been out there for a long long time now and every time I look at what someone like Comey is doing, I have to admit I put it in context of other things I know about them. So I know that when Comey gave his Padilla press conf, there is almost no way he wouldn’t have known about Binyam Mohamed, one of the other credible sources he seriously (but with reassuring smiles) tells the nation about, but a “classified” source and I know that he is smiling that reassuring smile despite razored genitalia being a part of the story he isn’t telling. So it does color my perception. As do a list of other things. Lists I am usually far too willing to share It’s not that you cannot be right or I cannot be swayed after I put my cards on the table, it’s just that I have to hear why I am wrong.

    I am sorry if you get righteous indignation channeled at you as opposed to at the actions that took place. The facts do make me angry. I would love some facts that don’t make me as angry. And some of the anger has been that there are so many things where the writing seemed so glaringly on the wall (like the Iraq invasions) and watching the train wrecks have been so painful, that there is a bit of a reflex, self protective, “not again” reaction – the kind that makes you throw your arm across your face and yell “no” right as a punch is coming.

    All fwiw, but I think people will miss it if you don’t share your insights and opinions and you have to realize that any number of people read yours in depth and just skip mine.

    You aren’t alone just bc we disagree.

    • bobschacht says:

      At the beginning of a wonderfully thoughtful comment, you wrote:

      I also think a good person might have a good reason to do something that is not good. I kind of think the path to hell IS paved with good intentions and there’s a reason that saying has been around so long.

      Ain’t dat da truth. St. Paul wrote in Romans 7:21,

      So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

      The section of the chapter that this comes from contains Paul’s bewildered assessment of why it is that good intentions gang aft a’glae, to mix in a little Bobbie Burns.
      There lies the source of much knavery.

      Bob in HI

    • drational says:

      Thanks very much for responding and thinking about my reactions on this, and thanks Bmaz, JTMinIA and WO and others for also hearing out my agita and offering insightful and empathetic comments. I respect your deep and consistent positions and am happy to share this set of tubes with you.

  36. Mary says:

    73- that’s a good read, thanks.

    82 – ditto on the good read. I guess the truth of the matter is, I don’t really expect that for Obamaco, if Krugman hasn’t swayed him on the economy, comments in a blog won’t much either. But you make points on determining your audience and your rhetoric.

  37. SebastianDangerfield says:

    I don’t know as Obama has definitively set his course here, but (a) I’m not liking the signs, and (b) the “just getting up to speed” line is wearing very thin. Sure there is a global economic crisis happening right now, and that should of course be front and center, but Obama promised a presidency that can walk and chew gum (oh, and to my light’s Obama’s screwing up with the response to the banking fiasco, big time). These issues are among the most important issues that DoJ has to face, and the appointees cannot possibly failed to see them coming, and know that what the implications were. Surely DoJ can consultat with the intelligance agencies and make a recommendation to the Prez.

  38. DrZen says:

    A special investigator. Gloves off. Nothing spared, no stone unturned. Now. Not “let’s wait and see how Obama pans out”. Not “he’s got a lot on his plate”. Our nations tortured. We are supposed to be under the rule of law. BRING THE LAW. Not in a year. Not “judge them at the next election”. Bring the law now.

  39. eCAHNomics says:

    Um, I seriously doubt that anyone with the ego to be prez will give up any of the hard-won perks that W accumulated. Which includes keeping everything bad secret. The vaunted “transparency” meme will dazzle with websites, while keeping everything important under wraps.

  40. ubetchaiam says:

    It is amazing how difficult it is for people to see that the emporer hasn’t any clothes.
    Bmaz, thanks for this excellent post.
    Selise, yes, it is a ‘web’ and climate change is woven deeply into the economic issues but doesn’t get much attention for the linkage.
    Others, Obama isn’t a ‘war criminal’ but he IS an OREO and the sooner people realize that the better. Simply reflect on the phrases he has uttered re ’systemic risks’ when it comes to ’stress testing’ of financial institutions,or ‘weakening the institution of the Presidency’ when it comes to ‘State secrets’(and I was pointing out long before he was elected about the dangers of not holding Bush accountable via impeachment).
    One can vent one’s opinion/thoughts about accountability regarding torture here

    • bobschacht says:

      IMHO, calling Obama an oreo is a vast oversimplification, and contains little truth. Obama grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, ferpetesakes, and as a current resident of Hawaii, the Oreo image just doesn’t work. Its more of a parody than a helpful image.

      Now, if you want Oreo, I give you Condaleeza Rice.

      Bob in HI

  41. KenMuldrew says:

    People have been vacuumed up with little or no incriminating evidence and held in captivity for years with no access to due process. Their liberty has been taken from them and in many cases they have been mutilated and tortured, sometimes to death. This is slavery. Quod omnes tangit; it touches everything. There is no hope for the nation if Barack Obama, him especially, refuses to act against institutional slavery for the sake of expedience. There is right and there is wrong and there is nowhere that the choice is so stark as with this issue. Time is of the essence because the civil war was fought 150 years ago, and that is surely long enough to realize that the right side won.

  42. ubetchaiam says:

    Bob, it was a choice between ‘uncle tom’ and ‘oreo’; sarcastic monikers for multiracial persons I’m unaware of and since everyone wants to call him the ‘first black president’ ,oreo seems accurate.
    You are right about Condi though.
    As is Thomas.
    Wonder when Holder will be pushed on to ‘clarify’ his remarks.

  43. JohnLopresti says:

    Jane Mayer interview with Gross played today, says April likely docket al-Marri Scotus likely debut of shift back to crim courts or adumbration of Katyal-Goldsmith terra court, look for congress concoct DTA MCA version. My sense of both Obama and Biden is neither could support torcha in any political sense. There is societal conditioning to tocha for sport and inspiration, make that expiration; ex-tackle Madden once described it as something akin to tocha in later life after retiring from gridiron. But I think Mayer has a wider sensibility than the narrow question of court without kangaroo or publicity, and that the Republicans are trying to attract attention until the new institutional pathways are better worn and configured. SJC has scheduled Johnsen next Wednesday; NB the materials available there are a breath of fresh air but some are from more than one year ago. It should be interesting meanwhile to see what Gates thinks of new directions over the next year until January 23 2010.

  44. maeme says:

    You know those on the very far fringes of the right have always claimed that Obama was not one bit different than Bush on his aattitudes towards the wars and the terrorists.
    I am all in favor of locking up the bad guys who want to hurt and kill americans but more and more we keep finding that so many of these “so-called terrorists from the Bush Administration” were just set up so badly and were such patsies or just simple citizens of their countries in the Middle East.

    • bobschacht says:

      …more and more we keep finding that so many of these “so-called terrorists from the Bush Administration” were just set up so badly and were such patsies or just simple citizens of their countries in the Middle East.

      Exactly. Perpetual war, and keeping the public in a state of perpetual fear was just what the Bushies needed to grab the power they wanted. For them, those “enemy combatants” were necessary furniture needed to complete The House that George & Dick Built.

      Bob in HI

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