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Obama On Torture & State Secrets

By The Reverend Published: May 2, 2009

All the Very Serious People in the Village, as well as all the usual-suspect Rush-Fox-Dick-Newtie types, have proceeded to build mountains out of the tiny molehill Obama gave them to work with in his answer on Wednesday night about torture. Obama seemed to agree with the 'for-torture' crowd when he said this....

"not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment,"

And while defending his executive order rejecting torture, Obama threw another bone to the 'for-torture' crowd with this...

"it will put us in a -- in a position where we can still get information.

In some cases, it may be harder,.."

It was a very thin ledge for Fox-Limbaugh types to cling on to in defending an American torture regime.....but Obama gave that ledge to the 'for-torture' crowd by insinuating that torture "works."

Prompting responses in Village media like this....

"In conceding that intelligence was gleaned from the harsh techniques, Obama may be making himself vulnerable to arguments by former Vice President Dick Cheney and other conservatives that he is making the country less secure."

In spite of Obama's bone throwing to torture enthusiasts, he went on to state that waterboarding is torture. We already know from The Dick's willingness lately to blab about torture, that the Bush administration ordered torture to be carried out. All, then, that remains...based on what Obama said Wednesday prosecuting those who ordered the torture.

The problem I have with Obama's answers Wednesday night is not with his answer about torture, it's with Obama's answer to a question about state secrets. In his answer about state secrets, Obama, for the first time, I think, spoke duplicitously.

I actually think that the state secret doctrine should be modified. I think right now it's overbroad.

Oddly, or maybe not, Obama's administration has been the very group who has sought to interpret the state secrets doctrine in an "overbroad" manner. Closer to the truth would be if Obama had said this.... "I think the state secrets doctrine is overbroad, and our administration has sought to broaden it even more."

I think that Obama was purposely trying to mislead by misconstruing his administrations' posture regarding state secrets. If, indeed, Obama thinks the state secrets doctrine is "overbroad", then why did his administration seek to broaden it even more?

Here's part of what the Obama administration filed last Friday in an attempt to have a court case dismissed on state secrets grounds....

Thus, both the text and legislative history of Section 223 of the Patriot Act make clear that a “willful violation” in 18 U.S.C. § 2712 means a willful, unauthorized disclosure of information by a Government agent.
The DNI has also explained that confirmation or denial of whether the NSA has collected communication records would cause exceptional harm to national security by disclosing whether or not NSA utilizes certain intelligence sources and methods and thereby revealing the
capability and operations or lack thereof for foreign adversaries to exploit.
First, if the plaintiffs cannot establish their standing as a factual matter without the excluded state secrets, then the privilege assertion
(unless preempted) would require dismissal.

Even Bush's administration didn't make this "broad" of an interpretation of state secrets rights. As Obama tells us he thinks the state secrets doctrine is "overbroad", his administration files papers radically broadening...umm....state secrets rights.

The Obama administration interprets the Patriot Act so broadly concerning state secrets that it insists the only way anyone has a right to find anything out about government abuse of state secrets rights is if someone inside the government willfully discloses that abuse.

Obama continues his answer....

But keep in mind what happens, is we come in to office. We're in for a week, and suddenly we've got a court filing that's coming up. And so we don't have the time to effectively think through, what exactly should an overarching reform of that doctrine take? We've got to respond to the immediate case in front of us.

That is not true. The Obama administration began January 20th. Holder's Justice Department had three months to "effectively think through" all implications of their position on state secrets in responding to a court case last Friday. After 12 weeks, Obama's administration decided to go even further than Bush in broadening state secrets rights.

Obama talks of the need to reform state secrets rules....

"But searching for ways to redact, to carve out certain cases, to see what can be done so that a judge in chambers can review information without it being in open court, you know, there should be some additional tools so that it's not such a blunt instrument."

Obama's answer was an attempt at misdirection. Glenn Greenwald responds....

That's what federal courts do all the time when hearing cases involving covert activities. Statutes (including FISA) already provide for exactly those processes, and this is exactly what the ACLU, EFF and others have been advocating be done in cases where the government claims that there are classified matters involved in lawsuits against the government.

Secrecy was the hallmark of the Bush/Cheney administration. From Energy Task Forces, to The Dick's White House visitors list, to state secrets justifications for illegal wiretapping, to a secret gulag-torture campaign, to Nixonian attitudes about an imperial presidency.....the Bush administration was able to carry out their numerous dirty deeds by appealing to 'state secrets' reasoning.....we just can't tell you anything because that would endanger the nation.

As with Bush, Obama's duplicity in answering a question about those very state secrets is a big disappointment.

Full press conference transcript here.

Appeals Court rejected Obama's broad position on state secrets on Tuesday of this week.

Easier to follow summary, here.



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