December 4, 2020 / by 

 

The Constitutional Argument Against the Platinum Coin Stunt

They came for the 4th Amendment, but it was necessary for the war on drugs. They came for the 5th Amendment, but due process had to be sacrificed for the war on terror. They came for the 6th Amendment, but confrontation had to succumb to classification and secrecy. They came for the War Powers Act because Libya was “required to be protected”. Now they are coming for one of the most fundamental of Constitutional checks and balances, the Congressional prerogative of the purse.

Who are “they”? They are, of course, the ubiquitous Article II Executive Branch. And they have a never ending thirst for usurping power, all in the name of efficacy. It is always necessary, it is always an emergency, there is always a reason, for them to take the power. They are the Daddy Branch, and it is always best to trust them. So they say.

Back when “they” were the Bush/Cheney regime, liberals, progressives, and Democrats in general, had a seriously dim view of accumulation and usurpation of power in a unitary Executive. When Dick Cheney, David Addington and John Yoo contorted existing law, gave it application never intended, and manufactured legal and governmental gimmickry to accomplish stunningly naked Executive power grabs, those on the left, especially the blogosphere, screamed bloody murder. Well, that is precisely what is afoot here with the Mint the Coin! push.

Where is that principled set of voices on the left now? Things are different when it is your guy in office I guess. Because the active liberal/progressive left I see out there is currently screaming to “Mint the Coin!” doesn’t seem to realize they are calling for the same type of sham rule of law that John Yoo engaged in.. This is most curious, because “Minting the Coin!” contemplates a naked power grab by the Executive Branch of historic proportions. It is a wholesale taking of the Congressional purse prerogative under the Constitution. But, hey, its an “emergency”. Of course. It always is when the Article II Executive Branch comes to feed in the name of efficacy.

What is the value of Separation of Powers, and constriction of Constitutionally assigned powers to the branch to which they were assigned, and what is the value in insuring that an imperial Executive Branch does not usurp too many powers? Let James Madison, in Federalist No. 47 explain:

No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty, than that on which the objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system. I persuade myself, however, that it will be made apparent to every one, that the charge cannot be supported, and that the maxim on which it relies has been totally misconceived and misapplied. In order to form correct ideas on this important subject, it will be proper to investigate the sense in which the preservation of liberty requires that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct.
….
The constitution of Massachusetts has observed a sufficient though less pointed caution, in expressing this fundamental article of liberty. It declares “that the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them; the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them. ” This declaration corresponds precisely with the doctrine of Montesquieu, as it has been explained, and is not in a single point violated by the plan of the convention. It goes no farther than to prohibit any one of the entire departments from exercising the powers of another department (Publius, Federalist 47).

What is the import of the Congressional “Power of the Purse”? As James Madison said in Federalist No. 58:

This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate represen- tatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure (Publius, Federalist 58).

The mantra is always “oh it will be reined in later after the emergency is over” and/or “the courts will sort it out later and fix it”. Not so in this case, the courts will not be settling this one; it is almost certainly the exact type of political issue historically and consistently refused to be entertained by federal courts under the Political Question Doctrine. Even if a federal court, presumably the District Court for the District of Columbia, would entertain the matter, do you really think the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, much less the Supreme Court led by Roberts and Scalia, would uphold this tomfoolery?

Also, as Hamilton noted in Federalist No. 78:

The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever.

The only other avenue of corrective legal relief is the impeachment process pursuant to Article I, Sections 2-3. It is highly doubtful the House would issue a charge of impeachment (although, don’t kid yourself, this is exactly the type of situation the impeachment power was designed for); but even if the House did, the Senate would never convict. So, the upshot is that if Obama is insane enough to pull the coin stunt, it will wind up as a historic and destructive gutting of power from the Article I Congress by the usurping Article II Executive Branch. And it will stand because there was no truly available forum to litigate the merits on their own right. Is that a good precedent to set in the name of efficacy? No.

The temporary thrill that those on the left would receive from the stunt would leave indelible lasting harm on our root Constitutional government. And, yes, that still, even in this day and age, matters. But, what about Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe having given his blessing to the “legality” of “Minting the Coin!”? There is, sadly for the coin aficionados, a difference between the legality of the physical “minting” of the trillion dollar platinum coin, and the legality and constitutionality of the plan to use it as a direct effective substitute for Congressionally authorized debt. Yes, it really is that simple.

Yesterday, I broached this subject with Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, and here is his response:

The Constitution says that Congress has the power to borrow money. The President cannot do this by unilaterally raising the debt ceiling or issuing a trillion dollar coin. The debt ceiling is set by statute and I think that there is not a plausible argument that it is unconstitutional.

I wish the President could do these things. I think increasing the debt ceiling here is essential and should not be an issue. But I do not think it can be done without Congress.

Yes. And that is the thing; even assuming arguendo the physical minting of the trillion dollar platinum coin is “legal” as suggested in this post by Markos (and for reasons left for another day, I maintain that is not nearly as clear as claimed), the contemplated use of the coin is not constitutional, and it is not appropriate. Therein lies the problem so many seem to suddenly, now that it is our man in the White House, conveniently ignore. Again, though, it is always convenient and exigent when the power hungry, usurping, unitary Executive theory comes calling, isn’t it?

So, there is the Constitutional case, or at least a healthy part of it. But what of the more pragmatic considerations? Do they militate in favor of President Obama being so brash as to blow up the founding checks and balances, in the form of the Purse prerogative being designated to the Congress? No, they don’t.

It is not every day I agree this much with something Ezra Klein said, but credit where due, I do today:

But there’s nothing benign about the platinum coin. It is a breakdown in the American system of governance, a symbol that we have become a banana republic. And perhaps we have. But the platinum coin is not the first cousin of cleanly raising the debt ceiling. It is the first cousin of defaulting on our debts. As with true default, it proves to the financial markets that we can no longer be trusted to manage our economic affairs predictably and rationally. It’s evidence that American politics has transitioned from dysfunctional to broken and that all manner of once-ludicrous outcomes have muscled their way into the realm of possibility. As with default, it will mean our borrowing costs rise and financial markets gradually lose trust in our system, though perhaps not with the disruptive panic that default would bring.
….
The argument against minting the platinum coin is simply this: It makes it harder to solve the actual problem facing our country. That problem is not the debt ceiling, per se, though it manifests itself most dangerously through the debt ceiling. It’s a Republican Party that has grown extreme enough to persuade itself that stratagems like threatening default are reasonable. It’s that our two-party political system breaks down when one of the two parties comes unmoored. Minting the coin doesn’t so much solve that problem as surrender to it.

While Mr. Klein does not address the Constitutional considerations and related arguments against the coin, and perhaps takes too easily some of the arguments for “legality”, his depiction of the political and practical wasteland that would result from Minting the Coin! are spot on. And it is, as with the Constitutional considerations, not a very pretty picture painted.

Back in July of 2011, the last time the debt ceiling crisis reared its ugly head, the call was to “Use the 14th” and have the president simply issue more debt without the consent of Congress. I wrote then why “Using the 14th” was not a viable option. It is still not a viable option now. We also learned after that 2011 iteration of the debt ceiling crisis was resolved, that the White House had received guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel in the form of an OLC memo. Considering the strength of the Executive Branch’s statements that it could not circumvent the Congress‘ control of the debt, it is almost certainly the case that the OLC guidance was that any such action was unconstitutional.

The premise, however, behind “Mint the Coin!” is no more constitutional that that of “Use the 14th”. In fact they both, at root, rely on the same premise, namely the language in the first sentence of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

But that sentence cannot be taken in isolation from the remainder of the Constitution, especially the primacy of the Article I Purse Power. No matter how much the gimmick crowd may wish it to be, it is not an ultimatum on the President to blow up the Constitutional system of checks and balances our government is based on. If one needed any further reminder of this fact, it is contained in Section 5 of the 14th Amendment, which states:

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

So, not only does the 14th Amendment not provide the rationale for a gimmick solution to the debt ceiling crisis, if anything, it reinforces that it is Congress who controls the issue. Exactly as Professor Chemerinsky opined above.

I too join Professor Chemerinsky in wishing there was an easy path for President Obama to do these things and win the day. Such, however, is not how our Constitution is designed, nor does it so allow.


Scott Bloch and Roll: DOJ Takes a Holiday Friday News Dump

The event we have all been waiting for is here in time for the Christmas Holidays! Yes, it is the long awaited news on the DOJ “prosecution” of the former Office of Special Counsel head under the Bush/Cheney regime, Scott Bloch.

As you may recall, when we last heard tangible news on the Blochhead front, it was June 20 of this year when his release restrictions were voided. The court voided Bloch’s release conditions because the DOJ had inexplicably left the case hanging in limbo after the previous guilty plea had been set aside, thus allowing Bloch to withdraw from it, all the way back in August of 2011.

So, between August 2, 2011 and December 21, 2012, a period of nearly a year and a half’s time, the DOJ has done nothing whatsoever in furtherance of prosecuting Scott Bloch. Until today. And the vaunted Department of Justice has, on the Friday before the Christmas holiday…..filed a Motion to Dismiss. However, that is not the end of the story, as clause 5 of the Motion to Dismiss contains this language:

Concurrent with this Motion to Dismiss, the government is filing a new information.

Well, not quite concurrent, as the Motion to Dismiss was filed mid to late morning, and the new information was just now made public. The new charge, a misdemeanor, is pursuant to 18 USC 1361 Depredation of Government Property or Contracts. The factual basis is made out from the “seven level wiping” Bloch caused to be done. Here is the new information just filed.

Well, at least that is what the information is SUPPOSED to charge. That is the crime noted in the caption, and clearly the crime contemplated by the framing, but in the key statute recitation paragraph, the controlling body of the document mistakenly charges 18 USC 1362 instead. A year and a half the DOJ has had to conjure up this smoking pile of whitewashing garbage, and they still can’t get a basic misdemeanor plea right. It will have to be amended to reflect the correct statute. Merry Christmas Dump!

A separate docket entry has set the date for formal entry of the plea for Friday January 4, 2013:

Set/Reset Hearings as to SCOTT J. BLOCH: Plea Agreement Hearing set for 1/4/2013 at 9:30 AM in Courtroom 4 before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson.

The sentence is not stipulated, but you can bet there will be no jail time involved for Mr. Bloch. The original charge Bloch pled guilty to, 2 USC §192 Refusal of witness to testify or produce papers, was also a misdemeanor. But it involved presumptively mandatory jail time the court – gasp! – indicated it would enforce. Not only did Scott Bloch flinch at having to serve minimal jail time, the DOJ agreed with him and fought side by side with him to make sure his butt never saw a cell for the mandatory jail for the charge he stood in open court and pled guilty to. With a damning set of factual admissions.

As both Marcy and I said back when the true nature of the DOJ’s collusion with Bloch was cast in stone:

But given the record of this Administration–from the mantra of “look forward” to the refusal to charge Dick Cheney for illegal wiretapping Americans to the refusal to charge Jose Rodriguez for destroying evidence of torture–I think it’s just that they refuse to send an official–one of their own–to jail. They cannot uphold the law, because the law might be upheld against them.
….
So, back to I guess he won’t see a cell Bloch Scott. Is DOJ really saying that a guy who wiped his hard drive shouldn’t go to jail? Yes, and they are willing to fight for him and with him to see that such is indeed the case. First the government filed a Motion to Reconsider dated February 7, 2011 regarding Judge Robinson’s 2/2/2011 ruling discussed and linked above. The Motion to Reconsider was basically five pages of whining that there was compelling authority to the effect the criminal they were prosecuting did NOT have to serve jail time. Yes, that is one hell of a strange argument for government prosecutors to be making.

Then, the willingness of the government prosecutors to fight to keep the criminal Bloch from serving one lousy second in jail goes from the absurd to the ridiculous. A mere four days after having filed the whiny Motion to Reconsider, and before it was substantively ruled on, the government, by and through the ever ethical DOJ, suddenly files a pleading encaptioned “Governments Motion To Withdraw Its Motion To Reconsider The Court’s February 2, 2011 Memorandum Opinion“. In this pleading, the government suddenly, and literally, admits their February 2 Motion to Reconsider was without merit.
….
Let me put that bluntly for you: the DOJ is helping a guy they have already convicted by way of guilty plea – that has already been accepted by the court – get out of that plea conviction. And they are already negotiating a different deal with the defendant, Bloch, to insure he doesn’t serve one stinking day in jail.

The foregoing is the background that brings us to where we are today, with Bloch pampered with a cuddly gift plea for Christmas, and with the DOJ depriving American citizens of the zeal in advocacy ethically required and needed to ensure the integrity of the federal government. Rather than defend the rule of law, DOJ has fought to help Scott Bloch get out of his plea deal because he might actually have to serve even minimal jail time for his crimes.

The number and quality of felony crimes Bloch could have been, and should have been, charged with are staggering; including obstruction of justice, false statements, perjury, willful destruction of government property and Federal Records Act violations.

But Defendant Bloch made a deal to plead to one little misdemeanor with the guarantee he would be considered under the most favorable sentencing guideline conditions imaginable. And, in return for this staggeringly mild treatment, both Bloch and the government swore and promised, in writing to the court, not to withdraw or appeal. Yet, that is exactly what both cravenly did – together in collusive unison.

It is the duty of the federal court system to provide fair and impartial justice to those before it and to stand as one of the three co-equal branches of government with a solemn duty to protect the sanctity of the government and see that justice is done not just for the powerful and privileged, but for all.

For a misdemeanor plea case, there were powerful and critical factors involved in the case of Scott Bloch which warranted serious treatment and a precedent set to deter future corruptors of American government. Central is the question of whether there is now, and will be in the future, any meaningful accountability whatsoever for Executive Branch officials as to the crimes they commit in office, and to the Congress, in the name of the United States citizenry.

The resounding answer to the accountability question from the actions of the Obama Department of Justice, as evidenced by the Scott Bloch prosecution, is no. There is no accountability, and there will be no accountability, because if Scott Bloch can go to jail for crimes in office, any other common government criminal can too.

The grandees of government, entrusted with the ethos of the American people, cannot possibly be treated with the same zeal for prosecution of perjury and obstruction that is doled out to common athletes such as Roger Clemens (and do check out the graphic at the bottom of the linked post, it is stunning) and Barry Bonds. Why can’t the Executive Branch officials be held to the same standard?

[For more on the Bloch saga today, see Mike Scarcella at Blog of the Legal Times]

[As nobody in the world will see this post this late in the afternoon, I may repost it substantially later, probably a couple of days before the January 4 plea entry setting]


Zero Dark 30 “Heroine” Outed and Scarred By European Torture Judgment

[SEE CRITICAL UPDATE BELOW]

Although many people have been long familiar with her name and career, there seems to be new buzz about the [possible] identity of the female CIA operative lionized in the bin Laden killing and talk of the town movie “Zero Dark Thirty“.

The Twitters are abuzz this morning, but this article from John Cook at Gawker last September tells the tale:

Her name is Alfreda Frances Bikowsky and, according to independent reporters Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy, she is a CIA analyst who is partially responsible for intelligence lapses that led to 9/11. The two reporters recently released a “documentary podcast” called “Who Is Richard Blee?” about the chief of the agency’s bin Laden unit in the immediate run-up to the 9/11 attacks and featuring interviews with former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, former CIA agent Bob Baer, Looming Tower author Lawrence Wright, 9/11 Commission co-chairman Tom Keane, and others. In it, Nowosielski and Duffy make the case that Bikowsky and another CIA agent named Michael Anne Casey deliberately declined to tell the White House and the FBI that Khalid al-Mihdhar, an Al Qaida affiliate they were tracking, had obtained a visa to enter the U.S. in the summer of 2001. Al-Mihdhar was one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77. The CIA lost track of him after he entered the U.S.

Bikowsky was also, according to Nowosielski and Duffy, instrumentally involved in one of the CIA’s most notorious fuck-ups—the kidnapping, drugging, sodomizing, and torture of Khalid El-Masri in 2003 (El-Masri turned out to be the wrong guy, and had nothing to do with terrorism). As the Associated Press’ Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo reported earlier this year, an analyst they described only by her middle name—”Frances”—pressed for El-Masri to be abducted even though some in the agency weren’t convinced he was the terrorist that Frances suspected he was. Instead of being punished or fired for the error, “Frances” was eventually promoted to running the Global Jihad Unit by then-CIA director Michael Hayden. According to Goldman and Apuzzo’s story, “Hayden told colleagues that he gave Frances a pass because he didn’t want to deter initiative within the counterterrorism ranks.”

My, my, the CIA does have problems keeping secrets lately, don’t they? A point saliently noted by Marcy in relation to both Matt Bissonnette and the Mexican “trainers” who were involved in in an ambush. I guess the de rigueur Obama Administration leak prosecution will be along any second.

It is fairly amazing Bikowsky’s name has been kept out of the real limelight surrounding [speculation on] Zero Dark Thirty this long, considering her known involvement in the other issues, especially the one about gleefully horning in on the torture show viewing [which Bikowsky did in regards to KSM]. An attitude that speaks volumes as to the prominence of and apologia for torture in Zero Dark Thirty. I guess that is what happens when the government and CIA give Hollywood carte blanche to protected information and clandestine operatives like Alfreda Frances Bikowsky.

So, while it adds yet another piece to the Zero Dark Thirty discussion, Bikowsky is not breaking news. What is, however, is the judgment just handed down in the European Court of Human Rights in a case centered on one of Bikowski’s biggest cock-ups, the el-Masri case. As reported in the Miami Herald:

A European court issued a landmark ruling Thursday that condemned the CIA’s so-called extraordinary renditions programs and bolstered those who say they were illegally kidnapped and tortured as part of an overzealous war on terrorism.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that a German car salesman was a victim of torture and abuse, in a long-awaited victory for a man who had failed for years to get courts in the United States and Europe to recognize him as a victim.

Khaled El-Masri says he was kidnapped from Macedonia in 2003, mistaken for a terrorism suspect, then held and brutally interrogated at an Afghan prison known as the “Sand Pit” and run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency for four months. He says that once U.S. authorities realized he was not a threat, they illegally sent him to Albania and left him on a mountainside.

The European court, based in Strasbourg, France, ruled that El-Masri’s account was “established beyond reasonable doubt” and that Macedonia “had been responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the U.S. authorities in the context of an extra-judicial rendition.”

This is an incident, and a judgment, that arguably might never have been but for the aggressive reckless action of [potential] Zero Dark Thirty “heroine” Bikowsky. As Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo noted in their blockbuster initial report on “Frances” (go reread Adam and Matt’s article in full, there is so much more there), Khaled el-Masri was the wrong man. An innocent man turned into a tortured “ghost”. Even worse, the reason this happened to this innocent man was the woman we now know as Alfreda Frances Bikowsky:

A hard-charging CIA analyst had pushed the agency into one of the biggest diplomatic embarrassments of the U.S. war on terrorism. Yet despite recommendations by an internal review, the analyst was never punished. In fact, she has risen to one of the premier jobs in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, helping lead President Barack Obama’s efforts to disrupt al-Qaida.

A European Human Rights court has managed to do what the United States courts have refused to do, and the American government has refused to allow, for Khaled el-Masri or anybody else – make a formal judicial finding of illegal rendition, torture and responsibility – in a case that was the work product of the American government and CIA. It is a beautiful thing, even if somewhat hollow in the judgment only being enforceable against Macedonia. Just the fact of the judgment speaks volumes about who, and what we, and our lionized “heroines” like Bikowsky are. It also speaks volumes about the perfidy of the Executive and Judicial Branches of the American government that still maintain the lie of “State Secrets” and “National Security” to facts and human wrongs being openly and notoriously discussed and litigated in more honest and enlightened forums.

As to Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, maybe the question should not be why she didn’t get a promotion, but why she still had a job at all after the Khaled el-Masri and Khalid al-Mihdhar/911 cock-ups? And maybe the message conveyed by Zero Dark Thirty, ought to be that leaving the bin Laden chase in the hands of torture freaks like Alfreda Frances Bikowsky impeded, not provided, the final result. Just maybe.

[ADDENDUM/UPDATE: I would like to make perfectly clear that there appears to be a case that Bikowsky is either the female agent, or perhaps more likely, part of a composite character in Zero Dark Thirty. There is no disclosure of that by the director and screenwriter, and no other direct evidence I have other than deductive reasoning based not only on the above links, but other source material such as here and here read in conjunction with the descriptions of the movie character that have been published in the media.

There are many characteristics of Bikowsky that have been described that fit with the character known as “Maya” in the movie; there are many that may not as well (including, potentially, age). Whether Bikowsky, whose name was already well within the public sphere, turns out to have been part of a composite template for “Maya”, time will tell. In the meantime, I clearly jumped too hard, too fast to a conclusion that is not locked down with evidence; for that I apologize.

Would also like to note that everything said about the European Human Rights Court judgment is unaffected and still stands completely]

(Graphic by the one and only Darkblack)


“Liberal” 9th Circuit Deals Death Blow To Al-Haramain Illegal Wiretapping Accountability Case

There is only one substantive case left in litigation with the ability to bring tangible accountability for the illegal and unconstitutional acts of the Bush/Cheney Administration’s warrantless wiretapping and surveillance program. That case is Al-Haramain v. Bush/Obama. Yes, there is still Clapper v. Amnesty International, but that is a prospective case of a different nature, and was never designed to attack the substantive crimes of the previous Administration.

A little over a couple of hours ago, late morning here in the 9th, the vaunted “most liberal of all Circuit Courts of Appeal”, the Ninth Circuit, drove what may be the final stake in the heart of Al-Haramain by declining to conduct an en banc review of its August 7, 2012 opinion. The notice from the court today is brief:

The opinion filed on August 7, 2012, and appearing at 690 F.3d 1089, is hereby amended. An amended opinion is filed concurrently with this order.

With these amendments, the panel has voted to deny the petition for panel rehearing and the petition for rehearing en banc.

The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. Fed. R. App. P. 35.

The petition for panel rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc are DENIED. No further petitions for en banc or panel rehearing shall be permitted.

Before going further with analysis, a word about the “amendments” to the opinion. The “Amended Opinion” is here. You can compare for yourself to the August 7 original opinion linked above, but the difference is pretty slight.

It appears all the court did is delete a few sentences here and there about 18 USC 2712(b). The court did not address, nor change, their erroneous assertion that plaintiffs’ Al-Haramain could have sued under 1806(a), or restore the misleadingly-omitted (by elipsis) language from 1806(a). Nor did the court address plaintiffs’ alternative theory of waiver of sovereign immunity.

Now, more than ever, you have to wonder just exactly what is in the secret sealed filings originally lodged by the DOJ in the 9th Circuit in Al-Haramain that the government scrambled so tellingly to “correct” in November of 2009. It would be nice if the inestimable Judges Harry Pregerson, Margaret McKeown and Michael Hawkins, “liberal lions” all, would deign to tell the American public what lies and/or fraud the Department of Justice perpetrated upon the court and the Al-Haramain plaintiffs that necessitated their blatant ass covering moves in November of 2009, and how those falsities interrelated to the decision to deny justice to the plaintiffs and the American public. How do these judges sleep at night?

With that out of the way, what does it all mean? Well, the key language in the original 9th Circuit opinion dated August 7, 2012 was:

Congress can and did waive sovereign immunity with respect to violations for which it wished to render the United States liable. It deliberately did not waive immunity with respect to § 1810, and the district court erred by imputing an implied waiver. Al Haramain’s suit for damages against the United States may not proceed under § 1810.

In short, wiretapping crimes against citizens and their organizations cannot, under any circumstance, be addressed. Because….IMMUNITY SUCKERS!

The perspective was explained by Marcy at the time of the August 7 opinion:

Because al-Haramain, at a time when Vaughn Walker was using 1810 to get by the government’s State Secrets invocation, said “it was not proceeding under other sections of FISA,” its existing claim is limited to 1810. The government used the information collected–in a secret process that ended up declaring al-Haramain a terrorist supporter–but not in a trial, and therefore not in a way al-Haramain can easily hold the government liable for.

The implication, of course, is that all the rest of the collection the government engages in–of all of us, not just al-Haramain–also escapes all accountability. So long as the government never uses the information itself–even if the entire rest of their case is based on illegally collected information (as it was in, at a minimum, al-Haramain’s terrorist designation)–a person cannot hold the government itself responsible.

The people who can be held accountable? The non-governmental or non law enforcement persons who conduct the surveillance.

But of course, they–the telecoms–have already been granted immunity.

Yes, there is now immunity every which way from Sunday, and between the AT&T cases of Hepting and Jewel, and now Al-Haramain, it has all been sanctioned by the “most liberal Circuit” in the land. Booyah.

A last word about why the title contains the words “death blow”. In short, it is because if this case, with these facts, with that judge (Vaughn Walker), and that trial court decision, cannot make it past the rank cynicism, duplicity and secrecy of the Bush/Obama continuum of regimes, then no case can. If none of that is possible in the “liberal” 9th Circuit, with a completely “liberal” panel of judges, then it is simply not possible. Yes, it is possible that plaintiffs Al-Haramain petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court, but it is almost certainly fruitless if they cannot even make it in the 9th Circuit, and they may well have a fear of further ingraining heinous law into the national books. We shall see, but it is certainly no given.

You have to feel for plaintiffs Al-Haramain, Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor who lost their constitutional rights and cause of action, Judge Vaughn Walker who meticulously crafted a solid opinion working around state secrets and FISA constraints, as well as plaintiffs’ attorney Jon Eisenberg, who lost, along with co-counsel, over $2.5 million dollars worth of attorney fees and expenses, and the time those fees represented out of their lives. All down the drain to a craven Executive Branch, a duplicitous Department of Justice and a fraudulent “war on terror”. Ain’t that America.


How Obama’s DOJ Sold Out American Citizens In the Robo-Signing Criminal Plea

Yesterday afternoon there was a critical guilty plea entered in the ongoing robo-signing mess that lies beneath the festering mortgage crisis.

The former executive of a company that provided documentation used by banks in the foreclosure process pleaded guilty to participating in a six-year mortgage-forgery scheme.

The deal announced Tuesday by the Department of Justice represents one of the only successful criminal prosecutions resulting from the “robo-signing” scandal that surfaced two years ago.

Lorraine Brown, 56 years old, of Alpharetta, Ga., who is a former executive of Lender Processing Services Inc., LPS of Jacksonville, Fla., pleaded guilty to a scheme to prepare and file more than one million fraudulently signed and notarized mortgage-related documents.

A criminal guilty plea to straight on systemic fraud like this (here are the pleas documents) ought to have far ranging consequences for home and mortgage holders, not to mention local county recorders, whose quiet title and fee income, respectively, were damaged by the fraud, or at least so you would think.

A long time attorney involved in the field of mortgage fraud, Cynthia Kouril, writing at Firedoglake, laid out well the paths to recourse plaintiffs damaged by this fraud should have:

At the end, I said that this could be a game changer. In the comments, folks thought that was a reference to the fact that for once we have a criminal case which involves a top tier executive. That is a big deal no doubt, but not the reason this could possibly change everything.

Homeowners who are being foreclosed upon based on a document chain that includes documents prepared by DocX/LPS have a built-in defense, and actually a counterclaim against Ms. Brown’s company. The defense is that the bank offering these documents as evidence no longer has any right to rely on them as proof of anything, and any bank offering a DocX or LPS document as evidence after yesterday knows or should know that they are committing a fraud on the court and on the homeowner.

Secondly, it would mean that the bank would be unable in many instances to prove an essential factual element of its case, that the mortgage and/or note was transferred to the foreclosing entity, and the matter would be ripe for a Summary Judgment motion by the defendant homeowner. This ONLY applies if there are DocX or LPS documents in you chain of transfer (just like the various MERS defenses only applied if your mortgage was put into the MERS system). Also, there may be other facts or circumstance in individual cases that would moot this point.

That sounds marvelous for so many homeowners and other victims, but it is not necessarily going to be the case. Why? Because the Obama Administration and their Department of Justice intentionally sabotaged the ability of these victims to use this plea against the co-conspirator banks, mortgage brokers and mortgage servicers. David Dayen of Firedoglake News is one of the only ones who have caught on to this whitewashing by the DOJ:

Sadly, the federal plea deal strains to hold servicers harmless for this conduct. See this key section, from the “Factual Basis” of the plea:

Brown represented to clients that DocX had robust quality control procedures in place to ensure a thorough and proper signing, notarization, and recordation process. As a result of these representations, clients hired DocX […]

Unbeknownst to DocX’s clients, the Authorized Signers were instructed by Brown and other DocX employees to allow other, unauthorized, DocX employees to sign, and to have the document notarized as if the actual Authorized Singer had executed the document.

This is just bunk. The idea that servicers – arms of the biggest banks in America – were just duped by Lorraine Brown’s claim of “robust quality control procedures” makes no sense whatsoever. They may not have known the mechanics of Brown’s document fraud, but that’s just because they wanted to insert a layer of plausible deniability – in fact for circumstances just like this. But they definitely wanted documents they could use in court to foreclose on borrowers as quickly as possible. And they didn’t exactly have the ability to do that though any other method than fraud.

That is exactly right. The plea allocution expressly covers the banks asses about knowledge of the forgery. So, as it stands now banks and servicers are also “victims” of Lorraine Brown’s fraud. And that is nothing but pure, unadulterated bullshit, specifically manufactured in the plea process by the government to shield the financial industry at the expense of decimated citizen homeowners.

The pleas did NOT need to include that gratuitous financial industry exculpation, it was sheer treachery by the Obama Department of Justice on the citizens they are supposed to be representing. The subject language did absolutely nothing to mitigate, aggravate, nor perform any function whatsoever, as to the parties to the plea, i.e. the government and the defendant, Lorraine Brown. It’s sole function was ass covering and water carrying for the bankers and financial industry.


97 House Republicans Join Latest Mob Attack on African-American Obama Appointee

Van Jones

Eric Holder

Valerie Jarrett

Shirley Sherrod

And now, Susan Rice.

Republicans are orchestrating yet another mob attack on one of President Obama’s African-American appointees. In this case, 97 House Republicans have signed a letter imploring Obama not to nominate Rice to replace Hillary Clinton. Yet they don’t raise any of the possibly legitimate reasons to oppose Rice’s appointment–her troubling record on Africa, her closeness to Obama.

No.

These 97 Republicans don’t even try to make this look like legitimate opposition. Instead, they rehash a Benghazi attack that hearings last week debunked.

Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American people in the Benghazi matter. Her actions plausibly give the U.S. (and rivals) abroad reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed.

They don’t know what the problem with Rice is, this mob of frothing Republicans. But if she’s black, they seem to be saying, she must be either incompetent or deceitful.

This frothing mob includes such leading lights of the racist right as Steve King, Ted Poe, Louie Gohmert, Michelle Bachmann, and Tim Griffin, and such discredited hacks as Scott DesJarlais and Joe Wilson.

While Alan West signed the letter, along with several Latinos, the letter largely pits a bunch of white radicals against a single black woman whom they claim is not credible because she read talking points developed by the CIA.

This is not the act of reasoned legislators. It’s a mob attack. A mob attack, like so many others, targeted blindly at an African-American professional appointed by our nation’s first African-American President.


Wherein DC Sir Lancelots Turn Their Tail And Flee Like Candyass Sir Robins

Attention Americans:

Those brave elected and appointed representatives who represent YOU in the Federal Government are fleeing! Well, granted, I guess that doesn’t really account for the elected members of Congress who have been diddling and twiddling their thumbs, among other things, for a while now in order to suck at the tit of corporate cash, while doing nothing for you on the record at their elected jobs (no, Darrell Issa’s dog and pony show doesn’t count) and throw it around to perpetuate a fraud on you.

But, as they say in movies, that is something completely different.

No, here is the notice I take just a little umbrage with:

Non-emergency employees (including employees on pre-approved paid leave) will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are:

required to telework,

on official travel outside of the Washington, DC, area,

on leave without pay, or

on an alternative work schedule (AWS) day off.

Telework-Ready Employees who are scheduled to perform telework on the day of the announcement or who are required to perform unscheduled telework on a day when Federal offices are closed to the public must telework the entire workday or request leave, or a combination of both, in accordance with their agencies’ policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.

Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksites unless otherwise directed by their agencies.

As friend of the blog, Timothy Shorrock, noted:

No government Monday. A state of anarchy will reign!

I’m with Tim, we are all SO SCREWED!

Okay, and I’m going to take a flyer that Mr. Shorrock agrees, the nation may not only survive, but actually prosper without the usual cabal of corrupt con men and bloodsuckers that generally run things in Washington DC on a “normal” day. Call me crazy, but I am going out on that limb.

Here is my issue: They are all bozos on that bus. Pretty much all of the NOAA, CNN and other data intensive models have been prediting this likely Sand path for days.

Our Men in Havana, er, I mean men and women in DC, are just figuring this out now??? Perhaps the usual rhesus monkey brains were otherwise occupied still figuring out the Administration’s housing policy.

And, look at the directive. What does it really say? That the poohbahs suggest common workers, just being notified a couple of hours before they go to sleep, do what they were already doing, or already had the option to do, and work from home. For any others unable to do so, the suggestion is they take leave.

In short, the real backbone of the federal government, the regular workers, are being treated in a tardy and tawdry manner.

By the 1% MOTUs. Shocking, no?

So, while the politicians who are not already cravenly out of town on your dime are absent, even the remaining Knights of The Pinhead Table run like crazed Sir Robins.

Ain’t that America?

Uh, yeah, so tomorrow will be different from exactly what other day you federal jackasses??

Because, Congress, the DOJ, the SEC, the FEC, the NLRB, and all the rest, BEFORE SANDY, were sooooooo totally responsive to the needs and desires of their constituents.

On a serious note, this hurricane is pretty clearly a grave matter for human safety. Care SHOULD be taken. The projected damage had the DC/Eastern Virginia/Maryland area in the cone of danger in nearly every projection.

The federal government waited until now to tell regular workers, the real backbone of our functioning government to, paraphrasing “stay at home if you have that already available, or otherwise work as best you can.

That is loathsome from a leadership of cowardly and craven Sir Robins. And, on the remote chance you do not understand what a “Sir Robin” is, watch the video.


The Kiriakou Conundrum: To Plea Or Not To Plea

There are many symbols emblematic of the battle between the American citizenry and the government of the United States in the war of transparency. One of those involves John Kiriakou. Say what you will about John Kiriakou’s entrance into the public conscience on the issue of torture, he made a splash and did what all too few had, or have since, been willing to do. John Kiriakou is the antithesis of the preening torture monger apologist in sullen “big boy pants”, Jose Rodriquez.

And, so, people like Kiriakou must be punished. Not by the national security bullies of the Bush/Cheney regime who were castigated and repudiated by an electorate who spoke. No, the hunting is, instead, by the projected agent of “change”, Barack Obama. You expect there to be some difference between a man as candidate and a man governing; the shock comes when the man and message is the diametric opposite of that which he sold. And, in the sling of such politics, lies the life and fate of John Kiriakou.

Why is the story of John Kiriakou raised on this fine Saturday? Because as Charlie Savage described, Kiriakou has tread the “Path From Terrorist Hunter to Defendant”. Today it is a path far removed from the constant political trolling of the Benghazi incident, and constant sturm and drang of the electoral polling horserace. It is a critical path of precedent in the history of American jurisprudence, and is playing out with nary a recognition or discussion. A tree is falling in the forrest and the sound is not being heard.

You may have read about the negative ruling on the critical issue of “intent to harm” made in the federal prosecution of Kiriakou in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) last Tuesday. As Josh Gerstein described:

Prosecutors pursuing former CIA officer John Kiriakou for allegedly leaking the identities of two other CIA officers involved in interrogating terror suspects need not prove that Kiriakou intended to harm the United States or help a foreign nation, a federal judge ruled in an opinion made public Wednesday.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema is a defeat for Kiriakou’s defense, which asked the judge to insist on the stronger level of proof — which most likely would have been very difficult for the government to muster.

In 2006, another federal judge in the same Northern Virginia courthouse, T.S. Ellis, imposed the higher requirement in a criminal case against two former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

However, Brinkema said that situation was not parallel to that of Kiriakou, since he is accused of relaying information he learned as a CIA officer and the AIPAC staffers were not in the government at the time they were alleged to have received and passed on classified information.

“Kiriakou was a government employee trained in the classification system who could appreciate the significance of the information he allegedly disclosed. Accordingly, there can be no question that Kiriakou was on clear notice of the illegality of his alleged communications.

Gerstein has summarized the hard news of the court ruling admirably, but there is a further story behind the sterile facts. By ruling the crucial issue of “intent” need not be proven by the accusing government, the court has literally removed a critical element of the charge and deemed it outside of the due process proof requirement, much less that of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

What does that mean? In a criminal prosecution, it means everything. It IS the ballgame.

And so it is here in the case of United States v. John Kiriakou. I am going to go a little further than Gerstein really could in his report, because I have the luxury of speculation. As Josh mentioned:

On Tuesday, Brinkema abruptly postponed a major motions hearing in the case set for Wednesday and a hearing set for Thursday on journalists’ motions to quash subpoenas from the defense. She gave no reason for canceling the hearings.

HELLO! That little tidbit is the everything of the story. I flat out guarantee the import of that is the court put the brakes on the entire case as a resultnof an off the record joint request of the parties to facilitate immediate plea negotiation. As in they are doing it as you read this.

There is simply no other reason for the court to suspend already docketed process and procedure in a significant case, much less do so without a formal motion to extend, whether by one party or jointly. That just does not happen. Well, it does not happen unless both parties talked to the court and avowed a plea was underway and they just needed the time to negotiate the details.

So, what does this mean for John Kiriakou? Nothing good, at best. Upon information and belief, Kiriakou was offered a plea to one count of false statements and no jail/prison time by the original specially designated lead prosecutor, Pat Fitzgerald. But the “word on the street” now is that, because the government’s sheriff has changed and, apparently, because Kiriakou made an effort to defend himself, the ante has been ridiculously upped.

What I hear is the current offer is plead to IIPA and two plus years prison. This for a man who has already been broken, and whose family has been crucified (Kiriakou’s wife also worked for the Agency, but has been terminated and had her security clearance revoked). Blood out of turnips is now what the “most transparent administration in history” demands.

It is a malicious and unnecessary demand. The man, his family, and existence are destroyed already. What the government really wants is definable precedent on the IIPA because, well, there is not squat for such historically, and the “most transparent administration in history” wants yet another, larger, bludgeon with which to beat the baby harp seals of whistleblowing. And so they act.

To date, there have been no reported cases interpreting the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), but it did result in one conviction in 1985 pursuant to a guilty plea. In that case, Sharon Scranage, a former CIA clerk, pleaded guilty for providing classified information regarding U.S. intelligence operations in Ghana, to a Ghanaian agent, with whom she was romantically involved. She was initially sentenced to five years in prison, but a federal judge subsequently reduced her sentence to two years. That. Is. It.

So, little wonder, “the most transparent administration in history” wants to establish a better beachhead in its fight against transparency and truth. John Kiriakou is the whipping post. And he is caught in the whipsaw….prosecuted by a maliciously relentless government, with unlimited federal resources, and reliant on private defense counsel he likely long ago could no longer afford.

It is a heinous position Kiriakou, and his attorneys Plato Cacheris et. al, are in. There are moral, and there are exigent financial, realities. On the government’s end, as embodied by the once, and now seemingly distant, Constitutional Scholar President, and his supposedly duly mindful and aware Attorney General, Eric Holder, the same moralities and fairness are also at issue. Those of us in the outside citizenry of the equation can only hope principles overcome dollars and political hubris.

Eric Holder, attorney general under President Barack Obama, has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.
….
“There’s a problem with prosecutions that don’t distinguish between bad people — people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money — and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions,” said Abbe Lowell, attorney for Stephen J. Kim, an intelligence analyst charged under the Act.

The once and previous criticisms of John Kiriakou, and others trying to expose a nation off its founding tracks, may be valid in an intellectual discussion on the fulcrum of classified information protection; but beyond malignant in a sanctioned governmental prosecution such as has been propounded against a civilian servant like John Kiriakou who sought, with specificity, to address wrongs within his direct knowledge. This is precisely where, thanks to the oppressive secrecy ethos of the Obama Administration, we are today.

Far, perhaps, from the “hope and change” the country prayed and voted for in repudiating (via Barack Obama) the festering abscess of the Bush/Cheney regime, we exist here in the reality of an exacerbated continuation of that which was sought to be excised in 2008. Kiriakou, the human, lies in the whipsaw balance. Does John Kiriakou plead out? Or does he hold out?

One thing is certain, John Kiriakou is a man, with a family in the lurch. His values are not necessarily those of those of us on the outside imprinting ourselves on him.

If the government would stop the harp seal beating of Mr. Kiriakou, and at least let the man stay with his family instead of needlessly consuming expensive prison space, that would be one thing. But the senseless hammer being posited by the out for blood successor to Patrick Fitzgerald – Neil MacBride, and his deputy William N. Hammerstrom, Jr. – is scurrilous.

Rest assured, far from the hue and cry on the nets and Twitters, this IS playing out on a very personal and human scale for John Kiriakou while we eat, drink and watch baseball and football this weekend.


Hedges NDAA Indefinite Detention Decision Stayed By 2nd Circuit

As much as I, and most who care about Constitutional protections and Article III courts still having a function in balance of power determinations, the recent 112 page ruling by Judge Katherine Forrest in SDNY (see here and, more importantly, here) had fundamental issues that made review certain, and reversal all but so.

The first step was to seek a stay in the SDNY trial court, which Judge Forrest predictably refused; but then the matter would go to the Second Circuit, and the stay application was formally filed today.

Well, that didn’t take long. From Josh Gerstein at Politico, just filed:

A single federal appeals court judge put a temporary hold Monday night on a district court judge’s ruling blocking enforcement of indefinite detention provisions in a defense bill passed by Congress and signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier issued a one-page order staying the district court judge’s injunction until a three-judge panel of the court can take up the issue on September 28.

Lohier offered no explanation or rationale for the temporary stay.

Here is the actual order both granting the temporary stay and scheduling the September 28 motions panel consideration.

This is effectively an administrative stay until the full three judge motions panel can consider the matter properly on September 28th. But I would be shocked if the full panel does anything but continue the stay for the pendency of the appeal.


DOJ Files Appeal: Further Thoughts On Hedges and The Lawfare/Wittes Analysis

Last night (well for me, early morning by the blog clock) I did a post on the decision in the SDNY case of Hedges et. al v. Obama. It was, save for some extended quotations, a relatively short post that touched perhaps too much on the positive and not enough on the inherent problems that lead me to conclude at the end of the post that the decision’s odds on appeal are dire.

I also noted that it was certain the DOJ would appeal Judge Forrest’s decision. Well, that didn’t take long, it has already occurred. This afternoon, the DOJ filed their Notice of Appeal.

As nearly all initial notices of appeal are, it is a perfunctory two page document. But the intent and resolve of DOJ is crystal clear. Let’s talk about why the DOJ is being so immediately aggressive and what their chances are.

I woke up this morning and saw the, albeit it not specifically targeted, counterpoint to my initial rosy take offered by Ben Wittes at Lawfare, and I realized there was a duty to do a better job of discussing the problems with Forrest’s decision as well. Wittes’ post is worth a read so that the flip side of the joy those of us on the left currently feel is tempered a bit by the stark realities of where Katherine Forrest’s handiwork is truly headed.

Wittes makes three main critiques. The first:

So put simply, Judge Forrest’s entire opinion hinges on the idea that the NDAA expanded the AUMF detention authority, yet she never once states honestly the D.C. Circuit law extant at the time of its passage—law which unambiguously supports the government’s contention that the NDAA affected little or no substantive change in the AUMF detention power.

Secondly:

Second, Judge Forrest is also deeply confused about the applicability of the laws of war to detention authority under U.S. domestic law. She does actually does spend a great deal of time talking about Al-Bihani, just not about the part of it that really matters to the NDAA. She fixates instead on the panel majority’s determination that the laws of war do not govern detentions because they are not part of U.S. domestic law. Why exactly she thinks this point is relevant I’m not quite sure. She seems to think that the laws of war are vaguer and more permissive than the AUMF—precisely the opposite of the Al-Bihani panel’s assumption that the laws of war would impose additional constraints. But never mind. Someone needs to tell Judge Forrest that the D.C. Circuit, in its famous non-en-banc en-banc repudiated that aspect of the panel decision denying the applicability of the laws of war and has since assumed that the laws of war do inform detention authority under the AUMF. In other words, Judge Forrest ignores—indeed misrepresents—Al-Bihani on the key matter to which it is surpassingly relevant, and she fixates on an aspect of the opinion that is far less relevant and that, in any case, is no longer good law.

Lastly, Ben feels the scope of the permanent injunction prescribed by Forrest is overbroad:

Judge Forrest is surely not the first district court judge to try to enjoin the government with respect to those not party to a litigation and engaged in conduct not resembling the conduct the parties allege in their complaint. But her decision represents an extreme kind of case of this behavior. After all, “in any manner and as to any person” would seem by its terms to cover U.S. detention operations in Afghanistan.

First off, although I did not quote that portion of Ben’s analysis, but I think we both agree that Judge Forrest pens overly long and loosely constructed opinions, if the two in Hedges are any guide. This is what I often refer to as “rambling”, and it is that.

Secondly, I note, significantly, Ben does not mention, much less meaningfully challenge, Forrest’s discussion on, and finding of, standing for the Hedges Plaintiffs. He should, it is every bit as big of an appellate concern as the three areas he does list. Forrest, in effect, used the disdain the Obama DOJ displayed to the court in not affirmatively presenting evidence and otherwise engaging in the initial March hearing on the merits of the plaintiffs’ situation as her basis for finding standing under Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife.

Forrest does an admirable job laying out a foundation for her finding of standing, but the 2nd will take some issue and it is almost certain the Roberts Court who, are ideologically led by Scalia in their ever more restrictive view of standing, will reverse Forrest. If I am writing the inevitable DOJ appeal, that is where I start. And if an appellate court, as I suspect, starts there and disagrees with Forrest, the inquiry may end right there without getting into further merits. I would not bet against just that happening.

Standing issue aside, Ben Wittes’ demurrers to the Hedges opinion are also salient. Initially, I was going to deconstruct the heart of Ben’s take via some older material from another Lawfare protagonist I very much respect, Steve Vladeck. Due to other duties interrupting the writing of the instant post, Steve has come along and done that for me in a post at Lawfare:

Indeed, I’m not perplexed by the theory behind Judge Forrest’s analysis, but by its application to these facts. Consider section 1021(e) of the NDAA, a.k.a. the “Feinstein Amendment”:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.

As Marty and I explained in this post, the entire point of the Feinstein Amendment was to quell concerns that the NDAA might covertly authorize the detention of U.S. citizens or other individuals within the United States. It did so by emphasizing that it merely preserved the (entirely ambiguous) status quo in such cases. This proviso didn’t resolve the scope of the government’s authority to detain such individuals; it merely provided that the NDAA didn’t change that question in any meaningful way.

As such, the Feinstein Amendment appears to necessarily foreclose the argument that what’s “new” in the NDAA could encompass any power to detain individuals covered by section 1021(e), i.e., “United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” Such individuals might still be subject to detention under the AUMF, but thanks to the Feinstein Amendment, only under the AUMF. And so, to the extent that Judge Forrest’s analysis turns on the conclusion that the NDAA confers detention authority not provided by the AUMF, one would think she’d have to explain why the Feinstein Amendment doesn’t limit the “newness” of the NDAA exactly to those individuals with less clearly established constitutional rights, e.g., non-citizens arrested and detained outside the territorial United States.

You may say to yourself, well what is there particularly positive about Vladecks’ take? And it is a decent question. The answer is, admittedly, nuanced and somewhat thin. But it starts with the fact Steve is willing to consider Forrest’s “central premise”. And, indeed, contra Ben Wittes, I think it is more than possible to envision the Katherine Forrest framing in a world that is capable of distinguishing between Ex Parte Milligan and Ex Parte Quirin in a more liberal Founding Fathers view as opposed to the militaristic “War On Terror” view such as is the single minded view of the Bush/Cheney to Obama Executive Branch unitary theory.

Secondly, and as Wittes appropriately notes, Judge Forrest is in no way bound by the hideous precedent that has been laid down by the DC Circuit. No, Forrest operates in the 2nd Circuit and is not bound by the crazed opinions of Janice Rogers Brown and the War On Terror Stockholm Syndrome infected DC Circuit that seems to have lost all perspective of that from whence we came. Give Katherine Forrest credit, I think she understands the slippery and craven hill she is heroically trying to climb, and that is why she engages in such rambling attempts to buck up her position.

As to Ben’s last beef, the overbreadth of the permanent injunction, well, yeah, that is the nature of the beast, no? Seriously, when any federal court is interpreting a statutory decree of Congress on a “facial”, as opposed to “as applied” basis, especially one as far reaching and contra to Founding principles as Section 1021(b) of the NDAA, the injunction has to really be that broad to engage the “face” of the statute. So, that one is not really the crux of the consideration in this case.

In conclusion, I have to, regrettably, agree with my friend Ben Wittes, the shelf life of the joy from Katherine Forrest’s decision in Hedges et. al v. Obama is remarkably short. That does not mean it does not have immense value though. Doomed as it may be, it is a significant and principled pushback at the treachery engaged in by the DC Circuit in the “Detainee Cases”. It almost certainly will not hold up, but I have not in recent times (maybe not since Vaughn Walker) had more respect for what a federal judge has tried to do to protect the Constitution and principles this country was built on.

Copyright © 2020 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/obama-administration/page/6/