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Records Wanted

Marisa Taylor writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "The Obama administration, which vowed to usher in a 'new era of openness in our country,' either has delayed action on requests for access to government records or refused to disclose them in three early, high-profile tests of the pledge.

"This week, Justice Department lawyers announced that they'd continue to assert the state secrets argument made by the Bush administration in a lawsuit alleging that five men were tortured abroad in U.S.-run prisons.

"In a separate case, the Obama Justice Department has agreed with the Bush administration — at least initially — that the news media shouldn't have immediate access to court records in the ongoing Guantanamo detainee litigation.

"In another example, the administration on Wednesday told the American Civil Liberties Union that it needed more time to decide whether to release undisclosed Bush Justice Department memos that justified harsh interrogation practices. A federal judge already had given government lawyers more time in the matter, which has been pending for five years....

"Justice Department officials say they intend to be more open than the last administration was, but that they need more time to find the right balance between openness and security."

Raymond Bonner writes in the New York Times: "Lawyers for a Guantánamo detainee at the center of a diplomatic stand-off between Britain and the United States are appealing directly to President Obama as part of a stepped-up campaign to have classified information about his treatment while in American custody made public.

"The lawyers have faxed a letter to the White House asking Mr. Obama to review the case of the detainee, Binyam Mohamed, who they say was tortured 'in truly medieval ways' over a period of more than two years after rendition to secret prisons overseas....

"The case could potentially be embarrassing for the new administration, which came to power promising a shift in policy on the issues of torture, rendition and state secrets. Advocates for Mr. Mohamed and other detainees have been counting on a sharp break from the approach taken under the Bush administration.

"Those hopes appeared to suffer a blow earlier this week, however, in a separate civil case in San Francisco in which Mr. Mohamed and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, claiming that the subsidiary arranged for rendition flights. At a hearing Monday before a panel of appeals judges in Federal Court, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise the judges by advancing the argument for preserving state secrets that was originally formulated by the Bush administration."

By Dan Froomkin  |  February 12, 2009; 12:19 PM ET
Categories:  Transparency  
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It appears that the Obama administration will be open and transparent except where Bush administration crimes are concerned. It appears that the Obama administration will actively work to prevent disclosure of crimes which might encourage calls for prosecution, or make it difficult to resist calls for prosecution of Bush-era crimes.

Posted by: dickdata | February 12, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

In the Obama dictionary Change=more of the same. Kinda like interrogaion=murder in Bush's dictionary.

Posted by: davidbn27 | February 12, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Obama is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place:

If he relents and opens up the books on the criminal Bush Administration, he will inadvertently expose numerous rank and file Government officials & foot soldiers who carried out the devious tasks ordered by the leadership.

This will cause distrust and downright emnity towards the new Commander in Chief as hard-liners are still present throughout our vast government apparatus.

If Obama does not open up the records and remain faithful to his many campaign pledges of transparency, he will risk losing his base -- the Left -- who are thirsting for the blood of the aforementioned criminal Bush Regime.

It will be interesting to watch this balancing out play out... already Obama seems like a man trying to straddle the middle ground -- trying desperately to not isolate those on either sides of the issue.

However, as was pointed out by numerous pundits, you cannot govern from a nondescript centrist position. This was evident when Obama first let the Congressional Dems write the stimulus, and then when he left a few member of the GOP hijack the process and cherry pick cuts to the bill.

If I could offer 1 small piece of advice to Obama: man up, govern with your heart and follow your strongly held instincts on these big decisions or you will be swinging like a pendulum for the next 4 years with no firm base of ideology.

Posted by: winoohno | February 12, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Has beens and medicores like Brennan, all those insipid, clueless CIA and military traitor types, doing a little CYA, eh?


Not gonna help, and to the rest of world, it says Obama is just as hapless, and apparently, as stupid, as Cheney.

Ya just can't render innocents for torture, kooks, and expect the world to invest in your country!

Go figure!

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | February 12, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I am willing to cut Obama some slack on this, because anyone who has observed him knows that he is deliberate and thorough and is not prone to making snap judgments and decisions. And considering the Bush administration would not share information regarding these matters with the transition team until the Obama administration was sworn in means they have had very little time to review these issues. Eric Holder has been sworn in for what a week?

However, people should continue to hold their feet to the fire to open up on these matters. People can help by asking when will the reviews be created and what criteria will be used to determine what should be made public and what should not? I would expect the latter answers to be very detailed and on an evidence by evidence basis and not on a blanket for national security basis. Specifically what about the information compromises national security? Does it reveal sources, clandestine identities or specific capabilities about equipment? Anything else is just covering up.

That said the Obama administration could do itself a big favor and appoint a commission to deal with the Bush administration's activities. Get the facts on the table and then decide what needs to be done where ever that takes us.

Posted by: troyd2009 | February 12, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, the laws generally leave so much room for interpretation that many of these issues won't even get adjudicated, since some in positions of power assert that the transgressions don't rise to the level of criminal intent.

My thinking is that the inverse may also be asserted, and the higher ups will be tried for breaches of their sworn duty but subordinates may be given leniency for cooperating or good faith,etc.

If we can't trust certain members of the judiciary to maintain secrecy, then the system can't fully work. Someone objective, from outside the Executive Branch and military has to determine what can validly be defined as risking "national security."

Granted, the hiring of a special prosecutor in the 1990's may have distracted Clinton from his focus on al Queda, but I don't think it is an issue if we focus mainly on the upper level servants who betrayed their national trust and put others at risk, becausemost of them are civilians now. I say pull back the curtain and let the sun shine in. If some of the revelations would jeopardize our security then they shouldn'tbe madepublic, but the findings can still be arrived at with discretion and good faith.

Posted by: russgeer | February 12, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

That said the Obama administration could do itself a big favor and appoint a commission to deal with the Bush administration's activities. Get the facts on the table and then decide what needs to be done where ever that takes us.

Problem is, an Obama administration memeber is already on record saying, saying,"renditions have their place."

That pretty much says it all.

Rendition is treason.


And if they're too stupid to understand why, they're too stupid to be serving the US government, in any capacity.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | February 12, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Dick Cheney himself - in a self-congratulatory post-election interview, reckoned that his - what's that? Oh, sorry, Junior's - administration has placed many tools in the hands of successor presidents, and the overweening reliance on the "state secrets" privilege is one that notably stands out and one that is difficult to resist, no matter what the ideology or "good will" of those employing it. Nothing new here, just another example of "the Unitary Executive" in practice.

Posted by: Gregor_Samsa | February 12, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Despite the bloodlust of some to see Bush administration officials, perhaps the President himself, and CIA and military employees prosecuted, it has to give some pause to President Obama and others of us to see a high US official tried for war crimes and the World Court calling for other trials under its jurisdiction. This could cause a schism in American society when we need to come together, diminish our world role, and destroy any chance of a successful reconciliation commission approach. It is sort of scary territory in its ramifications and not to be rushed into.

The better judge of whether Obama is just a continuation of the Cheney approach, which strikes me as a huge stretch, is how the US acts going forward under this President. A backward look on prosecuting the Bush administration may not be at all helpful.

Posted by: allentown1 | February 12, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice if the Obama administration just reversed all this Bush/ Chaney garbage. But they are offering an opportunity for the courts which were neutered and emasculated over the last eight years to reassert themselves as a co-equal branch of government.

Posted by: markswisshelm | February 12, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

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