Credit Where Due: Keith Olbermann Edition

I watch Keith Olbermann, and his Countdown show on MSNBC, pretty much daily, but I have been critical of him in the past, most notably in his unflinching willingness to blindly support Barack Obama’s adoption of Bush/Cheney policies on civil liberties/surveillance and torture/detention. A prime example of this was my response to Olbermann and John Dean when they conjured up a ridiculous explanation to cover for Obama’s about face on FISA retroactive immunity last summer prior to the election. In The Obama & Olbermann Master Plan For Criminal FISA Prosecutions, I said:

Okay, the words "Master Plan" in the title are a joke. So is the idea of criminal prosecutions, by a future Obama Administration, for Bush era FISA violations that has been hawked, to the point of near belligerence, by Keith Olbermann both on his show and in a running flame war with Glen Greenwald. The instant article will attempt to relate some of the glaring reasons, from a practical criminal justice perspective, that the Obama/Olbermann master plan is naive, almost to the point of being comical. Comical that is if we were not literally discussing the life and spirit of the Fourth Amendment and the health and well being of the Constitutional rule of law in this country.

Well that was then, this is now. That was the right thing to say then, but now it is time to give Keith Olbermann some very deserved credit. The last two nights, Countdown has dedicated substantial time to the depressing and maddening adoption by the Obama Administration of the tricks and artifices of the Bush/Cheney regime. For a review of Keith’s work in this regard Monday night with guest Jonathan Turley, see Glenn Greenwald at Salon who, in writing this, I have discovered had the same urge to give credit where due that I feel here.

Tonight, Keith had on Kevin Bankston of the EFF, who has been on the front line of the consolidated suits pending in front of Judge Vaughn Walker from the outset, and is lead on the new hot button case of Jewel v. NSA described here by Marcy. As the EFF press release states about Jewel:

The Obama Administration goes two steps further than Bush did, and claims that the US PATRIOT Act also renders the U.S. immune from suit under the two remaining key federal surveillance laws: the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act. Essentially, the Obama Adminstration has claimed that the government cannot be held accountable for illegal surveillance under any federal statutes.

Again, the gulf between Candidate Obama and President Obama is striking. As a candidate, Obama ran promising a new era of government transparency and accountability, an end to the Bush DOJ’s radical theories of executive power, and reform of the PATRIOT Act. But, this week, Obama’s own Department Of Justice has argued that, under the PATRIOT Act, the government shall be entirely unaccountable for surveilling Americans in violation of its own laws.

This isn’t change we can believe in. This is change for the worse.

No kidding. Please take a look at the video above of Olbermann with Bankston.

These are tough things to say about President Obama and his nascent administration and Keith Olbermann is to be commended for understanding the necessity for saying them. My hat is off for him doing so; please keep it up. In that regard, and as we wait for Judge Vaughn Walker’s critical decision in al-Haramain, let’s give some support to the effort. Donate to EFF or Accountability Now. Call, fax and email you congresspeople. Tell friends and family. Make a racket. The Constitution is worth it.

46 replies
  1. JimWhite says:

    Thanks for this, bmaz. It is encouraging to see Olbermann come around.

    Gotta go OT to a little trash talk: Just got back from a record-setting night for Gator freshman first baseman Preston Tucker. He hit two grand slams and a three run homer, the first a grand slam on an 0-2 pitch with two outs and down in the score 3-1. It was a towering shot down the right field line. The second was the three run shot and went to left center. The third was the second grand slam and was a laser shot to dead center. In the last ten games he is hitting over .600 with 30 RBI’s.

    • Leen says:

      Obama, Holder, Leahy, Pelosi, Whitehouse, Feingold… “no one is above the law”.

      Well except U.S. and Israeli based telecom companies, Cheney, Bolton, Feith, Rove, Wolofowitz etc etc

      Now if you are a blue collar worker or another regular kind of folk that endlessly repeated “no one is above the law” applies.

  2. randiego says:

    I saw it tonight. Keith has had Turley on quite a bit the past few months criticizing various aspects of Obama/DOJ decisions and approaches. (Or maybe it was Rachel come to think of it…)

    At any rate, on Monday’s show – I believe you were possibly out at the Biltmore – he did a great eulogy to his Mom. Some might see it as indulgent, but I loved the old family movie footage – he looked like kind of an awkward kid.

    Kos Thread – Marie Olbermann Memoriam

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      You are right.
      His eulogy was top notch.
      Especially, his mom’s love of baseball and how he weaved
      the story to perfection.
      For five minutes, I was a Yankee fan.

  3. bobschacht says:

    Thanks for this, bmaz.
    I usually watch Olberman & Maddow every day, but missed yesterday’s double hit on the whole “sovereign immunity” thing. I hope someone over in the DOJ is paying attention to the cries of outrage over these DOJ/Bush “tricks and artifices”. The time is rapidly coming when these problems will be *Obama’s*, not Bush’s, and if he really wants to stand in the same dock with George, well, he’ll lose a lot of support.

    Remember the old PP&M song about “If I had a hammer…”? We need to keep hammering.

    Bob in HI

    • Palli says:

      So other than reading analysis here and daily talk with other people how do I communicate with DC about this. Calls to my Congresswoman & Senators understood…

  4. cbl2 says:

    quite the moment on tuesday night after Professor Turley’s spot wherein Keith essentially said we’re done listening to the talk and gonna pay much more attention to the walk

  5. cbl2 says:

    p.s. love that smile on Mr Bankston’s face as KO mentions “bait n switch” at the 2:40 mark

  6. wavpeac says:

    I was very pissed at Olbermann during the primaries because he was merciless in regard to Clinton. At the time, I did not see a “vast” difference between Clinton and Obama, and this seems more valid every day. (at least not when it came to the issues I cared the most about).

    Hillary, separate from her husband, had taken a very strong tone and stance regarding the banking industry and banking fraud. One Obama did not take prior to the election. He had done very little to stop banking fraud in the mortgage industry in Chicago (not action that would work to stop the fraud in these loans)and had not spoken out as strongly about cram down legislation. Clinton was talking cram down long before this mess came forward. She had actually worked with Spitzer and seemed very aware of the awful mess ahead. This was hugely important to me because of my loan situation. I felt that Olbermann’s treatment of Obama in the primaries was often naive and that he was overly critical of Clinton and kind of off the mark at times buying into the republican memes about her. I quit watching for awhile at that time.

    But I will say this, he is able to be flexible and to consider differing opinions. I do think that he wants what is best for the country and that his interests reflect important issues for the country. I watch his show as often as I can again, and appreciate that he seems to be one of just a few who are reporting on fisa and the torture issue. I appreciate Jonathan Turley’s ability to explain these Obama “stances” so that the average person can understand them. I think that in a historical sense, Olbermann has done work that will be recognized as very important. He was the lone courageous voice on prime time at a crucial time in history.

    His eulogy really was amazing. If mom were watching, she likely would have been very proud of her son, and would have felt his love and respect for her.

    If I could sum up my sense of Olbermann’s biggest flaw I would say that it’s his “humanness”. It shows. His flaws, his ego every now and again, his fears, his biases, we see the child inside the man. But, that may be the price of admission. I feel the same way about Oprah…but recognize she has done good work in life, as well. Heck, I feel that way about everyone at times. That’s life.

    We like because…
    We love although….

  7. MsAnnaNOLA says:

    I am not a troll but if Obama keeps up this crap is he going to get primaried? With the trad med dying a slow and painful death, will anyone know that he is going further than the Bush Administration (at least in some areas, any being too many for me)?

    This is so disturbing. If he is going to break campaign promises these are not the ones I want him to be breaking.

  8. Leen says:

    Thanks Bmaz.

    Who the hell are they trying to protect? Telecom companies?

    Also just can’t get the image of Biden, Kerry, Lincoln Chafee etc during the Bolton nomination hearings. When they were demanding those NSA intercepts allegedly of Bolton wiretapping Colin Powell and UN members I thought they were going to jump over the table and collectively beat Boltons smirky ass.

    Also can not get that four part series that Fox News Reporter Carl Cameron aired on Israeli based communication companies ability to access 95% of all U.S. calls. This aired soon after 9/11.

    Just who were they listening to and why? Just who are the Bush and Obama administrations protecting?

    • PascoBill says:

      From what I’ve seen, Obama’s centrist credentials mean that he is pro-corporation. Here’s a short list: health insurance (not single-payer), prop up the banks (not the mortgage holders and borrowers), prop up AIG, GM, Chrysler (but allow bankruptcy to hurt the workers), protect the Wall St. firms (but nothing to rebuild the lost IRA’s and pension moneys), protect the telecoms (not the phone customers). More and more, politicians of all stripes focus their efforts on corporations – what’s good for companies is good for America. If only that trickle-down stuff worked.

  9. Valtin says:

    OT, but bmaz, did you see this?

    D.C. Court: No Judicial Appeal on Torture Transfer for Uighurs, Other Gitmo “Detainees”

    Center for Constitutional Rights reports today that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overruled a district court ruling, in Kiyemba et al. v. Barack Obama (PDF), that prisoners at Guantanamo must get 30 days notice of any pending transfer to another nation. The Court said that the judiciary cannot “second-guess” the Executive regarding its assertion that prisoners would not be transferred to a country that would torture them.

    According to the ruling, the decision arose from the Uighurs case, which has been much in the news in past months, as the U.S. has already said these prisoners are not “enemy combatants”, and are not being charged with any crime (even as they remain at Guantanamo, where they have been held for over seven years, many of them in windowless cells 22 hours a day).

    Here’s a link to the CCR press release, and to the decision.

  10. whitewidow says:

    More bad news.

    In an interview that aired Wednesday night on the CBS Evening News, Attorney General Eric Holder suggested to Katie Couric that the Obama administration is unlikely to depart dramatically from the Bush administration’s position on the use of the state secrets privilege, noting just one case out of about 20 currently under review in which the Justice Department is seriously considering changing its stance. He did not say which case that was.

    In what’s being called the first major challenge of the Obama administration’s detention policy, lawyers on Monday filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case of Kiyemba v. Obama, in which a Court of Appeals ruled that federal courts do not have the power to order innocent Guantanamo detainees released into the United States.

    The significance of that ruling goes far beyond the now-notorious case of the 17 Chinese Muslim Uighurs directly involved. At its core, the petition asks the Supreme Court more broadly: does a federal court have any power at all over innocent prisoners of the “war on terror”?

    The Central Intelligence Agency — under President George W. Bush and now President Barack Obama — has refused to allow the International Red Cross access to tortured detainees captured in the US war on terror, a new human rights report reveals. (emphasis mine) -snip-

    “The majority of the people in the CIA program are unaccounted for,” John Sifton, a human-rights investigator and lawyer told Isikoff. “We don’t know what happened to them.”

    Daphne Eviatar at The Washington Independent has been doing some stellar, if depressing, reporting.

    • watercarrier4diogenes says:

      I think my


      is still working on my machine.

      and editing is also working. You might want to clear your cache, etc, ad nauseum and restart your browser.

  11. runfastandwin says:

    Basically the “Patriot Act” has given not just Bush, for whom it was expressly written, but any president carte blanche to do as he sees fit as along as he can somehow wedge the issue into “national security.” It’s up to the Congress to undo what they have done, I think they need to shoulder far more of the blame than the President. Not that I am counting on it. Nancy Pelosi says she will revisit it when it expires in December, so until then we have to let them know that it goes way too far.

  12. Mary says:

    Thanks for this bmaz.

    For the last month and a half (almost 2) I’ve been able to watch some of Olberman and Maddow’s programs, which is something I haven’t been able to do consistently until now. Olberman has had some other comments, guests, etc. during that time frame where he has gone after both the wiretap and torture issues – he’s been worth watching. Turley has been dogged.

    20 – Noor al-Deen (mentioned in posts by EW here and in other reports) the teenager taken with Zubaydah would be one of those unaccounted for – he was reportedly taken to Morocco for more torture too and Andy Worthington has reported that he was the teenager identified by one of the Canadian detainees at the Palestian Branch – although he seems to have passed out of US hands into nether.

    KSM’s children are – where? One of the GITMO detainees indicates they were held at one of the sites where he was detained for harsh treatment and were being abused at that site. Where they? Well, it’s not like we let the ICRC have access to KSM’s wife and children after we took them, so ??

    Then there was creepy Saud Memom who seems to have been involved in the horrific murder of Daniel Pearl – and Memon’s creepy end – You have to wonder whether or not he was re-disappeared to Pakistan after his statements ended up conflicting with the flashy “confession” they got from KSM. I guess Pearl’s family will never know.

    Ghost Plane has references by people like el-Masri and Arar to others being tortured to order for the US that they were exposed to in their personal torture experiences.

  13. amilius says:

    Might this all be so that these ‘powers of a unitary executive’ are knocked down by court rulings in such a definitive way that they will never be available to adventurous administrations again? This could not be accomplished with an executive order or a ruling by the DOJ. Might it be that the Constitutional Scholar President is thinking long-term?

    • bmaz says:

      Um, in a word, hell no. Any lawyer that would play those type of games with the Constitution and citizenry would have to be one of the most worthless and ignorant “Constitutional lawyers” imaginable. And if that is what Obama is doing, that is exactly what he is. Seriously, I do not mean to be harsh, but how in the world does this thought make sense? By fighting hard and adopting every obstructionistic tactic in the book, and then some, you are likely to win and have the the horrid illegality enshrined as a positive precedent. This President is thinking long term about his political future and disregarding the intent of the Founding Fathers and health of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That is the only “long term” view being exhibited here.

  14. JohnLopresti says:

    Found an interesting batch of reflections on the chemistry between Bybee and Yoo. The brief paper review’s B’s prior and later employments.

  15. timothy3 says:

    I’m a baseball fan and I was very upset to read of the death of Adenhart. Really terrible news. I’m very sorry for his parents and have only the best thoughts for them and all others who are equally upset.

    These are tough things to say about President Obama and his nascent administration

    I really don’t think these are difficult things. Obama is the one making these decisions. The facts are what they are. Power, as Kissinger once noted, is an aphrodisiac.

  16. ShotoJamf says:

    If I had to guess, I’d say that KO was giving the benefit of the doubt to a very new administration. It appears that those days might be drawing to a close – as they should. If he’s interested in being taken seriously as a Real Journalist (and I believe he is), then he is obligated to call the facts as he sees them. What I’m hoping happens next is that both he and Maddow start boring in on the trillions that have been pledged to the “financial services” industry. No mercy on this heist. Obama, Geithner, Bernanke, Summers, Romer, etal all need to be held to account.

    Finally, we (and hopefully KO, Rachel and others) must be unrelenting in DEMANDING REAL HEARINGS on the whole bailout miasma. Open timeline, unrestricted subpoena power, special counsel – The Works.

    • cbl2 says:

      per your question last thread –

      saw mention of Jane’s appearance on the twitter page – but didn’t see it until halfway through the show – so don’t know if she was on in the first 30 min.

  17. dosido says:

    I was rather hoping that the new AG and administration were busy “tenting” the DOJ to get all the foundation destroying pests out. Guess not.

    Really disappointing. Esp. from a constitutional scholar. gag.

  18. Spokane61 says:

    Letter to the White House responding to Keiths show.


    As an American and a former supporter of yours, I am writing to tell you of my deep disappointment and growing disgust for your idea of what constitutes American Justice.

    “Obama Administration Embraces Bush Position on Warrantless Wiretapping and Secrecy
    Says Court Must Dismiss Jewel v. NSA to Protect ‘State Secrets’
    San Francisco – The Obama administration formally adopted the Bush administration’s position that the courts cannot judge the legality of the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) warrantless wiretapping program, filing a motion to dismiss Jewel v. NSA late Friday.

    In Jewel v. NSA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging the agency’s dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. The Obama Justice Department claims in its motion that litigation over the wiretapping program would require the government to disclose privileged “state secrets.” These are essentially the same arguments made by the Bush administration three years ago in Hepting v. AT&T, EFF’s lawsuit against one of the telecom giants complicit in the NSA spying.

    “President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration’s cover-up of the National Security Agency’s dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that the much-publicized warrantless wiretapping program is still a ’secret’ that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again.”

    In Federal Court Case 3:08-cv-04373-VRW Document 18 Filed 04/03/2009

    You (by means of your minions) said “PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that, on June 25, 2009 at 2:30 p.m., before Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, the Government Defendants sued in their official capacity in this action will move to dismiss certain claims in the Complaint against them pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and for summary judgment as to any remaining claims pursuant to Rule 56. The grounds for this motion are that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction with respect to plaintiffs’ statutory claims against the United States because Congress has not waived sovereign immunity and summary judgment for the Government on all of plaintiffs’ remaining claims against all parties (including any claims not dismissed for lack of jurisdiction) is required because information necessary to litigate plaintiffs’ claims is properly subject to and excluded from use in this case by the state secrets privilege and related statutory privileges.

    You sir, do not deserve the office of President. This unconstitutional assault on the civil rights of Americans shows your utter disrespect both for the laws of the nation and for those of us who voted for you. Be assured that I shall do everything in my power as a citizen to see you impeached and tried for High Crimes against the people of the United States of America.

  19. Robt says:

    It really doesn’t matter itf we have a Marian President with a 300% favorable rating. Civil liberties need to be adhered even for Obama.

    Otherwise it is like Bush said, ” dictatorships aren’t so bad, as long as I’m the dictator”.

    Besides, if Eric Holder can’t find the political spine to appoint a independent prosecutor to settle the accused Bush criminal abuses. when the president is republican and it most likely will be some day. Bush will pale in retrospect.

  20. DWIGHTBAKER says:

    In the United States, the power of the federal judiciary to review and invalidate unconstitutional acts of the federal executive branch is stated in the constitution, Article III sections 1 and 2: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. … The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority…” The first famous statement of “the judicial power” was Marbury v. Madison. Later cases interpreted the “judicial power” of Article III to establish the power of federal courts to consider or overturn any action of congress or of any state that conflicts with the constitution.

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