When we talk about the impressive ability of the United States to transfer political power every four/eight years, we call it impressive because we presume it involves introducing some change that the exiting party opposes. And the entire point of elections is to provide an opportunity to introduce that change. So, in that context, I ask – how in the hell did we end up here?
On issues ranging from the government’s detention authority to a program to kill al Qaeda terrorist suspects, even if they are American citizens, Mr. Obama has consolidated much of the power President George W. Bush asserted after Sept. 11 in the waging of the U.S. war against terror.
[ . . . ]
Overall, [former CIA Director and Bush appointee] Mr. Hayden said, there is more continuity than divergence between the Bush and Obama administrations’ approaches to the war on terror.
“You’ve got state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners at Bagram [in Afghanistan],” Mr. Hayden said, listing the continuities. “And although it is slightly different, Obama has been as aggressive as President Bush in defending prerogatives about who he has to inform in Congress for executive covert action.”
I never thought that Obama (or any president) would willingly give up the expanded state surveillance powers, but I have to admit to being surprised that he’s put so much effort into protecting torturers:
In a 6-5 ruling issued this afternoon, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Obama administration a major victory in its efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review, when the court upheld the Obama DOJ’s argument that Bush’s rendition program, used to send victims to be tortured, are “state secrets” and its legality thus cannot be adjudicated by courts.
[ . . . ]
The distorted, radical use of the state secret privilege — as a broad-based immunity weapon for compelling the dismissal of entire cases alleging Executive lawbreaking, rather than a narrow discovery tool for suppressing the use of specific classified documents — is exactly what the Bush administration did to such extreme controversy.
This is exactly what Candidate Obama decried. And now President Obama has completely embraced it. This isn’t some small matter of little interest to those outside of the legal or political worlds. The ACLU’s Ben Wizner, who argued the case, said:
This is a sad day not only for the torture victims whose attempt to seek justice has been extinguished, but for all Americans who care about the rule of law and our nation’s reputation in the world. To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration’s torture program has had his day in court. If today’s decision is allowed to stand, the United States will have closed its courtroom doors to torture victims while providing complete immunity to their torturers.
I’d like some of that Change We Can Believe In, please.
(Be sure to click through to the Washington Times (yes, Washington Times) story at the first link, if for no other reason than to behold the amazing agreement of parties from across the full political spectrum on the continuity between Bush and Obama).