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Obama's Power Grab

Obama in explanation mode yesterday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

President Obama yesterday showed the nation once again how good he is at explaining complicated things. Next up on his agenda should be an explanation -- or, rather, a clarification -- of his views on presidential power and George W. Bush's counterterrorism legacy.

It's past time for Obama to address his apparent adoption of positions he formerly characterized as extremist, and his suddenly cooling commitment to transparency when it comes to embarrassing secrets left over from the Bush era.

In the past few weeks, we've seen the Obama Justice Department make absurdly broad invocations of the state secrets privilege to protect Bush's spying programs from judicial review. We've seen the administration argue that foreign detainees -- as long as they are being held in Afghanistan rather than at Guantanamo -- can be imprisoned indefinitely without formal charges. We've seen how Obama, after staying out of the debate over accountability for torture and other unlawful legacies of the Bush administration, is now, apparently, taking sides by balking at requests from his own top legal advisers to release incriminating memos.

It's getting increasingly hard to reconcile candidate Obama, who eloquently criticized Bush's executive power overreach, with President Obama. This is especially true because his underlings consistently duck questions, leaving it entirely unclear why he's taking the positions he now takes and what, if anything, made him change his views.

So an explanation is called for from the man himself. And since the first 100 days of an administration are so defining, he ought to do it sometime in the next two weeks.

Supporters who put faith in Obama's campaign pledges to restore the nation's moral authority were heartened by his actions on his first and second full days in office. "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," he declared on Jan. 21. On Jan. 22, he banned torture and ordered the eventual closure of Guantanamo.

Some of those same supporters still hope that the administration's more recent actions can be chalked up to bureaucratic inertia and a steep learning curve. Perhaps Obama has a compelling explanation for the evolution of his thinking on these issues. Or perhaps the president, who has on many occasions admitted that he will inevitably make mistakes, could admit he's made some here.

Every day seems to bring more signs of Obama's retreat from his previously stated goals.

Evan Perez and Siobhan Gorman write in the Wall Street Journal today: "The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed in Central Intelligence Agency interrogations, despite a push by some top officials to make the information public, according to people familiar with the discussions.

"These people cautioned that President Barack Obama is still reviewing internal arguments over the release of Justice Department memorandums related to CIA interrogations, and how much information will be made public is in flux.

"Among the details in the still-classified memos is approval for a technique in which a prisoner's head could be struck against a wall as long as the head was being held and the force of the blow was controlled by the interrogator, according to people familiar with the memos. Another approved tactic was waterboarding, or simulated drowning."

Astonishingly, Attorney General Eric Holder, White House Counsel Greg Craig, and even Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair are all lined up in support of disclosure. But Perez and Gorman write: "People familiar with the matter said some senior intelligence advisers to the president raised fears that releasing the two most sensitive memos could cause the Obama administration to be alienated from the CIA's rank and file, as happened during the Bush administration when Porter Goss, who was unpopular among CIA officers, headed the agency."

And get a load of this chutzpah. "Intelligence officials also believe that making the techniques public would give al Qaeda a propaganda tool just as the administration is stepping up its fight against the terrorist group in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Maybe they should have thought of that a bit earlier.

Scott Shane wrote in the New York Times last week: "The Central Intelligence Agency said Thursday that it would decommission the secret overseas prisons where it subjected Al Qaeda prisoners to brutal interrogation methods, bringing to a symbolic close the most controversial counterterrorism program of the Bush administration.

"But in a statement to employees, the agency's director, Leon E. Panetta, said agency officers who worked in the program 'should not be investigated, let alone punished' because the Justice Department under President George W. Bush had declared their actions legal."

There's an argument to be made that the low-level people who just followed orders shouldn't be punished -- although at some point, the "just following orders" argument doesn't cut it anymore. But what's the argument against simply finding out what happened?

R. Jeffrey Smith wrote in The Washington Post on Saturday that an appeal filed by the Obama administration on Friday "makes clear that, despite the ruling this month by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, the Obama administration for now wants to stick with a policy set by President George W. Bush that those incarcerated by U.S. troops in foreign prisons have no U.S. legal rights."

But there's a chance this position, at least, is temporary. Smith wrote that officials said the appeal "did not foreclose a change of heart after the completion in July of a comprehensive review of detainee policy."

The New York Times editorial board wrote on Monday: "In the absence of a fair review process that complies with international and military law, there is no reason to feel confident that everyone detained at Bagram deserves to be there. The administration should focus on putting such a process in place, instead of wasting its energies in an appeal that simply recycles extravagant claims of executive power and perpetuates the detention policies of the Bush administration."

Greg Sargent reported for Whorunsgov.com last week on the White House's continued refusal to say "whether the Obama administration will support legislation introduced by Senate Democrats that would roll back the use of the 'state secrets privilege."

And Sam Stein now reports for Huffingtonpost.com that even the "Vice President's office is declining to weigh in on a bill that would restrict use of the 'state secrets privilege' by the Department of Justice, despite the fact that, as a senator, Joe Biden co-sponsored that very piece of legislation."

Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald, who has been consistently critical of Obama's backsliding, misses Obama the presidential candidate: "So that Barack Obama -- the one trying to convince Democrats to make him their nominee and then their President -- said that abducting people and imprisoning them without charges was (a) un-American; (b) tyrannical; (c) unnecessary to fight Terrorism; (d) a potent means for stoking anti-Americanism and fueling Terrorism; (e) a means of endangering captured American troops, Americans traveling abroad and Americans generally; and (f) a violent betrayal of core, centuries-old Western principles of justice. But today's Barack Obama, safely ensconced in the White House, fights tooth and nail to preserve his power to do exactly that."

And in another post, Greenwald speculates about motive: "There is, as [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi said this week, clearly a strong aversion -- one might say 'desperation' -- on the part of the Obama White House to avoid anything that could increase the pressure to commence investigations and prosecutions of Bush crimes....

"Preserving the President's general ability to block lawsuits alleging illegal conduct on the part of the President obviously enables Obama to invoke that power whenever there are allegations that he is breaking the law. The power to abduct people and put them in cages indefinitely without having to answer to anyone about what you're doing -- the power Obama is claiming he possesses in the Bagram case -- is obviously a potent authority that a typical President fighting a 'war' would instinctively want to wield. And Howard Fineman was likely correct when he told [MSNBC's Keith] Olbermann on Tuesday night that Obama is petrified of alienating the permanent intelligence and military establishments in Washington which might be alarmed by any attempt to abandon these vast powers, particularly where reversing course could raise the likelihood of prosecutions.

"Ultimately, though, motives don't matter. Simply put, there is no excuse, justification or mitigation for advocating blatantly unconstitutional and tyrannical powers or claiming that secrecy shields the President from the rule of law."

Right-wing bloggers are taking pleasure in all the consternation from the left. Glenn Reynolds writes for Pajamas Media: "What surprises me is that these people are surprised. It seemed obvious to me that Obama had no real commitment to civil liberties, and that talk to the contrary was just to fool the rubes."

Meanwhile, Jane Sutton writes for Reuters: "A young Guantanamo prisoner from Chad was given permission to telephone a relative but instead called the al Jazeera television network and said he was being beaten and abused at the U.S. detention camp....

"Mohammad el Gharani,...now 21, has been held at Guantanamo for seven years. He was ordered freed by a U.S. district judge in Washington in January, a week before U.S. President Barack Obama took office and ordered the prison operation shut down within a year....

"He told al Jazeera he had been beaten with batons and teargassed by a group of six soldiers wearing protective gear and helmets after refusing to leave his cell.

"'This treatment started about 20 days before Obama came into power, and since then I've been subjected to it almost every day,' he told Al Jazeera.

"'Since Obama took charge he has not shown us that anything will change.'"

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 15, 2009; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Looking Backward  
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Comments

Ever think that the reason Obama is largely leaving Bush’s counter terrorism policies in place is because they worked and the pleas from human rights activist (especially those from Europe) were more crocodile tears than genuine concerns?

Say it aint so!

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 15, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

In the past few weeks, we've seen the Obama Justice Department make absurdly broad invocations of the state secrets privilege to protect Bush's spying programs from judicial review. We've seen the administration argue that foreign detainees -- as long as they are being held in Afghanistan rather than at Guantanamo -- can be imprisoned indefinitely without formal charges. We've seen how Obama, after staying out of the debate over accountability for torture and other unlawful legacies of the Bush administration, is now, apparently, taking sides by balking at requests from his own top legal advisers to release incriminating memos.

-----------
If he follows Bush's path at the behest of a failed Pentagon, he will end up as Bush and Cheney, a discredited loser.

And the cut-and-run sisters of our military currently advising him, same as those who lost under Bush, will distance themselves so quickly from his, or their, failure, they'll suffer whiplash. That's why they're cut-and-run, they shift the blame to others the minute their stupid plans start to fall apart, and they always fall apart.

This Bush Washington doesn't work, bottom line.

Obama's survival is dependent on understanding why guys like Brennan and Jones and the rest of that stupid, impotent military-intelligence trash really only harm him, in the end.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 15, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

It's safe to say any US Official convicted of war crimes, in say Spain or The Hague, wouldn't be extradited, I guess because the US feels it's above its treaty obligations. Obama has to know, as his advisers do, that his failure to extradite or investigate and prosecute where warranted, makes him an accessory after the fact. Regardless of any political machinations, why he would accept the mantle of a protector of war criminals as his legacy is beyond me.

Posted by: Bushy | April 15, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dan. Kool aid is kool aid. I expect better from a Harvard constitutional law professor than Bush's same old.

Posted by: SarahBB | April 15, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Is it possible that he could be supporting the policies because he wants them tested (an subsequently ruled unconstitutional) in court? That way it would clearly set the boundaries for future Presidents.

He is a constitutional professor after all and it seems like an perfect opportunity to test the limits.

Posted by: gmckinney | April 15, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

@gmckinney: "Is it possible that he could be supporting the policies because he wants them tested (an subsequently ruled unconstitutional) in court?"

That's immediately what I thought when this all came out. Part of me thinks it's more of the same wishful thinking we've seen about other questionable Obama decisions, but this seems different because it's... plausible. And it's been done before. I guess we'll know soon enough.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 15, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Is it possible that he could be supporting the policies because he wants them tested (an subsequently ruled unconstitutional) in court? That way it would clearly set the boundaries for future Presidents.

------------

Then it would be his decision, and not that of the courts, though.

Obama is setting the tone through leadership, is in fact advocating for the same policies by which Bush was defeated.

Why?

In this case, the courts are trying to do the right thing (mostly), Obama is fighting them.

Again, why?

Given the stink around him in Brennan and the like (this guy implemented Cheney's torture policies, for starters, Jones speaking of unilateral power, "the lone spoke" to the President, per his WP interview -- HA!) it's pretty obvious this is just another CYA on the part of the failed, would be warrior class.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 15, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

You said, in regard to secret overseas prisons and brutal interrogation methods: "There's an argument to be made that the low-level people who just followed orders shouldn't be punished -- although at some point, the 'just following orders' argument doesn't cut it anymore." That's right, that argument doesn't cut it anymore, and that was determined at the Nuremberg trials after WWII. There is no issue here. The criminals should be tried and brought to justice. If we did that when the criminals were following Hitler's orders, but don't do it when they were following Bush/Cheney orders, then where is our American honor? Justice must be done, but Obama does not have to lead the effort, he just needs to let it happen.

Posted by: ex-pat | April 15, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Just a simple response. Some people like to make a thorough review of policy before they suggest or make changes. Some people like to have the new policy outlined and ready to go before they over-turn the old. Not defending President Obama but giving you another point-of-view to why he has not immediately release these classified memos and over-turned Bush policies. Think before you act, something George and Dick did not exercise so well.

Posted by: ajackson3 | April 15, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Well, I don't see any of the usual crowd complaining about Dan Froomkink toadying up to Obama. Wonder what the Right Wing Press, besides WSJ, has to say about this topic?

Dan, Please add some quotes from those "viewpoints".

Posted by: Spectator | April 15, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Obama is caving in to pressure from the National Security apparatus (e.g., CIA agents who can sabotage his administration) and his fear that Republicans will blame any support by him for civil liberties as the reason for any national securitiy probelms that might arise. Protecting the civil liberties that are America's greatest gift to civilization requires more courage and political support than Obama yet has. Furthermore, it is rational to fear that if Obama makes his Government more open, Republicans will use such openings as avenues for attack, even as they hypocritically espouse closed and tyrannical government. Republicans used FOIA requests to tie the Clinton administration in knots.

Posted by: rjoff | April 15, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Mr. Froomkin. Obama needs to come clean on this asap. I supported him every way I could in his quest to become president and I feel like a complete chump now that he is continuing both the legal and illegal parts of the GWOT. Also disgusting is Obama's effort to do everything he can to keep the Masters of Wall Street content at our great expense.

Posted by: splamco | April 15, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame that Obama cannot be more like George W. Bush!

Posted by: david-mckenzie | April 15, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

What Mr. Froomkin is saying is that HE should have the right to hear the "facts" so he can pass them on to the "unwashed."

Froomkin can't understand that while we currently have troops in harms way, it's best left unsaid what occurred in Bush's torture camps.

But what does he care?

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | April 15, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin, your surpsire at all this makes me laugh. Bush adopted those policies because they were effective, not because of some lust for power on his part. Now Obama wants to be effective, too. I think that he should be. So I support Obama's continuance of various successful GWB policies.

All the anti-Bush agitprop was really intended to weaken GWB politically. Obama took part when it was to his advantage. Now that having a weak and ineffective President is no longer in Obama's selfish best interest, he has changed his tune.

And boy does Froomkin have whiplash, lol.

Posted by: ZZim | April 15, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin, your surpsire at all this makes me laugh. Bush adopted those policies because they were effective, not because of some lust for power on his part. Now Obama wants to be effective, too. I think
------------
Hm.

That's debatable.

How have they been effective, I don't see it, I see the opposite, the US, and its war efforts, in greater decline, the international community still highly mistrustful, the same policies indicating the same STUPID people making decisions, just as with Bush.

Why is that?

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 15, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Obama is caving in to pressure from the National Security apparatus (e.g., CIA agents who can sabotage his administration
--------

Playing 666, or the devil, here, just for fun, what if it turns out the opposite, the Brennan's are in fact the ones being gamed? I mean, they're the ones committing treason, right?

Ah, I know, I've been reading too much Tom Clancy -- and I don't even read Tom Clancy -- and treason?

What a quaint concept.

Or not.

Beware of false Christs?

Is there an analogy, beaware of false Satans, for the devil-worshipping crowd?

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 15, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Obama is caving in to pressure from the National Security apparatus (e.g., CIA agents who can sabotage his administration) and his fear that Republicans will blame any support by him for civil liberties as the reason for any national securitiy probelms that might arise. Protecting the civil liberties that are America's greatest gift to civilization requires more courage and political support than Obama yet has. Furthermore, it is rational to fear that if Obama makes his Government more open, Republicans will use such openings as avenues for attack, even as they hypocritically espouse closed and tyrannical government. Republicans used FOIA requests to tie the Clinton administration in knots.

Posted by: rjoff | April 15, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse
-------------------------------------

That is about the best analysis of the situation froomkin speaks of then he even wrote. Send a letter to the President regarding this issue. Yours may be one of the 10 he reads during the day.

Posted by: Just_An_Observer | April 15, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, for better or worse, Obama doesn't want to divide the country over the issue of the past unlawful acts and war crimes of the Bush administration.

His campaign promises were about how he would govern as president and as commander-in-chief, that he would not engage in the egregious conduct of his predecessor, NOT that he would initiate a crusade of recriminations and, possibly, prosecutions.

In a way, Obama's decision is, once again, an affirmation of both the breadth and limits of presidential power under our Constitution and laws, and, perhaps most important, in a practical sense.

There are many things a president can do on his initiative and his alone, including(still) pick up the "red phone" and launch a nuclear strike that could lead to the extermination of life on this planet.

Keeping in mind that there probably would be no investigation of such a decision after the fact, what's vitally important is whom we put in the White House and how that person will conduct himself or herself, going forward.

Posted by: bfieldk | April 15, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Just a simple response. Some people like to make a thorough review of policy before they suggest or make changes. Some people like to have the new policy outlined and ready to go before they over-turn the old. Not defending President Obama but giving you another point-of-view to why he has not immediately release these classified memos and over-turned Bush policies. Think before you act, something George and Dick did not exercise so well.
Posted by: ajackson3 | April 15, 2009 1:48
------------------------------------------
I second this view as well... Like Obama said, everyone seems to want instant gratification. He and his team will of course keep the current laws in place while completing the COMPREHENSIVE review.

Get back to President Obama in a year or 2

Posted by: Just_An_Observer | April 15, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Anytime you see a president back off a previous position, one of two things happened. Either:

1. He lied during the campaign or
2. He is battling a bureaucracy over who is going to take the fall.

I think Scenario #1 was at work in the Bush administration and #2 is happening now.

Bush put criminals in charge of every branch of government and they, in turn, hired criminals to staff the organizations. Those criminals are not going down without a fight.

What kind of blackmail material do you think has been acquired on Pentagon generals and admirals over the past eight years? How much dirt has the CIA acquired on those who would challenge their legal standings? Part of the benefit of hiring criminals is that you automatically have the means to blackmail them into following your orders. That's why "Fredo" Gonzalez headed the Department of Injustice.

Shifting power to a non-criminal heirarchy will take time, patience and a master politician. Fortunately, Obama is that politician.

Posted by: motorfriend | April 15, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I think it is too early to say that Obama has caved on this issue. More likely he is waiting to get settled in before dealing with this one. He knows that the far right will defend to the death their right to torture and abuse prisoners. The good folks at Hate Radio will be working overtime to whip up "homeland security" hysteria. Why feed the sharks this issue so early in the term?

Posted by: gposner | April 15, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to believe that Obama has some master plan to bring the rule of law back to the government. I'd love to believe that. But I lost my faith in him when he turned the Treasury Department over to Goldman Sachs.

Posted by: nicekid | April 15, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

//Is it possible that he could be supporting the policies because he wants them tested (an subsequently ruled unconstitutional) in court? That way it would clearly set the boundaries for future Presidents.//

Congress and the President have a sworn duty to personally uphold the Constitution in all of their actions. Their first line of duty is to act in good faith in accordance with what they sincerely believe it dictates, never to intentionally violate it believing the courts will clean up after them and "take the heat" for overturning what they should have known was prohibited in the first place.

Posted by: SarahBB | April 15, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

It is quickly approaching 100 days that he's been in office. So far it has been very interesting. Let's see what else develops on this matter.

Posted by: censorplease | April 15, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Obama's tasks are to repair the economic, domestic and international damage done by the previous administration, to establish a more inclusive and affordable health care system, to deal with global warming and energy issues, and to improve American education so we are more competitive in the global economic system. If he were to use his time and energy in an attempt to punish the Bush administration and its more egregious members for their behavior, it would have to be at the expense of his other priorities, and would divert the Congress and the electorate from the tasks at hand to a political war. Is that really what folks want him to spend his time and political capital doing?

Posted by: dschwa2222 | April 15, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Candidate Obama was unencumbered with the weight of office.

President Obama must be concerned with the Office of the President, the 43 Presidents who precede him, and those who will follow.

It's a closed club that a current president protects so that his secrets are not someday revealed.

The President protects the Presidency.

Posted by: LisaJain1 | April 15, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Shame to all of you,our President is really doing his job well,for crying out loud he is only barely 4 months in office and there are too many limbaugh's in America,so our President Bam can't concentrate on his job as president everybody wanted to act like president of america.Leave Pres.Bam alone, he is our President,you have to wait after 8 years and that's a long way.We love the President from all of us here in Monaco.

Posted by: gracie-mansion | April 15, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

The GOP is the joke of the century. Having failed to accomplish anything of substance after 4 years of COMPLETE government control, they revert to blaming the opposition for all problems (and invent them where they don't exist). I understand how politics works; I know about "politics as usual"; the GOP has repeatedly crossed the line from politics as usual to sheer depraved madness.

And to counter this blight on decency, we have the Democrats.

Fantastic.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 15, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Outstanding work, Dan. Time for President Obama to live up to candidate Obama's stirring words.

Posted by: jpk1 | April 15, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

My hope is that Obama has a plan to deal with these issues effectively in the coming months but wanted to deal with the economy and other things first.

My fear is that he is giving too much weight to a few members of the intelligence community and stalled in making any changes or, worse yet, not planning on making any changes.

My relief is knowing that at least Dan Froomkin can be counted on to keep this issue alive. Thanks Dan.

Posted by: matt_ahrens | April 15, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

President Obama needs to take a stand. This issue is more important than ANY other problem facing our great nation. If we institutionalize torture and detention without habeus corpus, our nation will never be the same, and the words "liberty and justice for all" will become nothing more than quaint slogans in the history books. The right to a trial by jury is the pillar upon which our nation stands, and without this right we have no rights at all.

This is a critical turning point for the USA, for better or for worse. God help our great nation...

Posted by: jerkhoff | April 15, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Ha Ha Ha Ha. All of you Bush haters are now seeing that adult leadership sometimes requires the president to ditch the all to easy rhetoric of the left and use uncomfortable methods to protect our nation from evil. Grow up. The "cowboy diplomacy" of shooting pirates and terorists in the head to safegaurd our nation is absolutly needed in this day and age.

Posted by: cummije5 | April 15, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Obama is scared of getting dragged into prosecutions of officials, especially low-level officials, that would be politically disastrous.

It's an ugly fact that any effort to bring legal accountability for these practices would be a guaranteed vote-loser for Obama.

So that's definitely part of his motive. The question is whether he also wants to push executive power now that he's chief executive.

Thank God there are people like Froomkin and Greenwald to hold his feet to the fire on that, so to speak.

Posted by: JenDray | April 15, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

There are some who believed that the election of Obama would bring change to our corrupt political culture. We have seen that the ruling elites have used his election to rob the US treasury to save their fortunes and capitalism. Given our history it now seems incredibly naive to have believed that all these the powerful forces would allow any significant change. We want to continue to hope. The trial of our former leaders for war crimes would be messy, divisive, and a blow to our collective psyches. Using the Spanish courts to investigate, charge and prosecute our war criminals may be the only practical way to proceed. Remembering that the assassination of JFK, followed his refusal to agree to air support for the illegal invasion of Cuba. Perhaps Obama is moral illusion. Transparency is a dagger aimed at evil done in our names. Can he do the right thing without risking his safety. Could our nation accept a guilty verdict without agreeing to extradition. Events will force him to show his true colors. Refusing to answer difficult and embarrassing questions has protected him from outright lies so far. Lies of omission are lies in the end. It will be interesting to see his actions and statements when the UN has completed the investigation of Israel's actions in Gaza. There can be no hope for us until the truth-all of it comes out. Until then we will never restore our 'moral integrity' to a skeptical world. Instead we have deteriorated into a frightened, angry nation that rejoices in the killing of teenage pirates. On the eve of our highest religious holiday-celebrating the resurrection, our hearts are warmed when we kill our undersized enemies. Like the citizens of Rome-thrilled to be able to gesture thumbs down-and kill our victims. Blood lust pure and simple. Wall Street robs our future and destines most Americans to an old age of poverty. Funny the pirates never stole anything from me. We are shooting all the wrong crooks.

Posted by: GSierra1 | April 15, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Ruth Marcus may have nailed it in her column today ("Where is Obama's Backbone?)", although her observations were not directed toward national security issues. As many posters here have observed, Obama's administration is still in a nascent stage. Has reality softened his outlook, despite his tough rhetoric?

However, it would behoove the President to offer the American public some encouraging signs of meaningfull transition from Bush administration national security/unitary executive rationalizations, even if the tactical means of transition have not been fully developed (I am optimistically assuming that such is the case).

I agree with Dan Froomkin in regard to this particular issue.

Posted by: MillPond2 | April 15, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

It should be obvious why he's keeping these powers. So when Obama turns the US into a totalitarian marxist socialist fascist state he will have the power to send all the right wing pundits and their followers to the concentration camps FEMA has been secretly building. You need to listen more the Glenn Beck, Rush, Sean, Michael Savage and you'll understand whats really going on here. Didn't you read the DHS report on how the government is already getting reading to round up conservatives on the the pretext that they are all right-wing extremists?

Posted by: mickster1 | April 15, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dan.

The only thing more sickening than watching Obama show his hypocritical lying a$$ is watching the fools on sites like the Democratic Underground show theirs.

Why do so many Democrats think it was bad when Bush did it, but when Obama does it, that's somehow different? Or maybe he doesn't know what the DOJ is doing. Or maybe he hasn't had time to think about it yet. Or maybe he's got some secret master plan he's going to reveal at the last moment. Or maybe...or maybe....

GIVE IT UP, OBAMA DEFENDERS!

There is NO WAY to defend this. NONE. And you look like idiots trying, and you look like even bigger idiots when you attack those of us who point out that Obama is following in Bush's footsteps.

I voted for Obama in 2008. I will NOT vote for him again.

Posted by: solsticebelle | April 15, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

LOL!

Posted by: JakeD | April 15, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Coming from a background in the real intelligence fields, and having been more than properly indoctrinated in the arcana of classification of materials, like the period of time I worked in a signal intelligence building where security breaches occurred when someone set a case of beer, or sodas, I can't remember which, on a code word document and then accidentally took it out of the building stuck to the bottom of the box, prompting the Company Commander to declare that the only paper of any kind, including letters from home, that would be allowed to leave the compound would be by courier up the chain of command to battalion, all other paper of every kind to be treated as code word and burned, I can sympathize with the Prez. While flatly declaring everything George or his hivemates touched declassified is a tempting wish, there still has to be a revue to keep the material that IS properly SECRET and ought to stay that way from being declassified with the bulk of George's CYA codeword (OK, really CTA, Cover Their) materials. THAT isn't something you do in haste.

So until the classification gurus get done revueing and sanitizing that mass of illegally classified documents, (and, by the way, deciding how much of that material is evidence of the crime of classifying material to conceal criminal activity, certainly a felony in the seventies, hopefully still a felony) he has to take the position of supporting his deceitful predecessor.

Give the professionals time. Maybe they will work up a whole bunch of counts to indict the Dark Lord of the Smirk himself.

And, by the way, it is about unheard of for a properly conducted declassification revue to take less than ninety days.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 15, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Dan,
Thank you for giving this story the attention it deserves.

Sadly, I'm not holding my breath for the release of all three of the memos (in readable form) tomorrow.

Posted by: whenpigsfly | April 16, 2009 1:12 AM | Report abuse

It seems like the President understands the limits of transparency as well as the uses of power to combat terrorism. While the ends do not always justify the means, it would make no sense for the U.S. to sleep now.

Posted by: nixon68 | April 16, 2009 5:50 AM | Report abuse

LOL LOL LOL

Posted by: TBsportsguy | April 16, 2009 6:47 AM | Report abuse

Obama is not doing this to get court decisions. He is getting cases dismissed at the lowest level. Only appeal courts issue binding decisions, and Obama is trying to keep these cases (state secrets) from getting to the appeals court level. BTW, those guys in the secret prisons? They'll never be seen again by anybody, much less the Red Cross/Cresent.

Posted by: dickdata | April 16, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

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