Thursday, April 09, 2009

Obama Sides with Bush on Wiretaps.

Olbermann on what is the greatest disappointment so far from the Obama administration: Obama is continuing - and in some ways expanding - Bush's claims of the president's extraordinary powers.

Obama ran for office promising the exact opposite of what he is doing here. I used to say that he needed more time, but it's becoming harder and harder to believe that he is ever going to prosecute these people if he is claiming for himself the same rights which he once condemned.


And he's doing the same regarding Bagram airbase, one of the US's most notorious foreign prisons:
And just a month after the president—with some fanfare—ordered the Guantanamo closing, his administration embraced the Bush administration’s position that the Bagram detainees should properly be held in what is effectively a legal no man’s land, barred from having a court hear their cases.

That premise, which the Supreme Court in several cases involving terrorism detainees already has rejected, now has been cast off by a federal judge hearing the claims of a handful of prisoners who were captured outside of Afghanistan—in Dubai and Thailand, for example—and taken to Bagram for detention. These prisoners, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled last week, are “virtually identical” to the Guantanamo detainees in whose favor the Supreme Court already has ruled.

“They are noncitizens who were (as alleged here) apprehended in foreign lands far from the United States and brought to yet another country for detention,” Bates wrote. Yet the administration, he added, advocates different treatment depending on whether it “ship[s] otherwise identically situated detainees to Guantanamo or instead to Bagram.”

Arguing that Bagram detainees are different from those at Guantanamo because they are held in a “theater of war” seemed particularly galling to Bates. The U.S. government itself is responsible for taking these detainees into the combat zone. “Such rendition resurrects the same specter of limitless executive power” that the Supreme Court has rejected and reinvigorates the concern that the president can move detainees “physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain them indefinitely.”

This was a fundamental breach of justice and morality when the Bush administration did it. It is precisely the same breach—made worse by the stench of hypocrisy—when the Obama administration does it.
I've read commenter's on some left wing blogs argue that Obama has to give the intelligence agencies what they want or, as they did with Kennedy, they will simply kill him. I'm sorry but that's giving Obama an awful lot of leeway as far as I am concerned.

No-one forced him to campaign on any of this stuff, but he did, and that was what made him so refreshing and inspiring. Here was someone saying what we all knew to be right.

If Obama is allowed to keep these powers - "because if he does not the intelligence agencies will kill him" - then the principle will have been established that the US president, for whatever reason, can hold people beyond the range of any court and that he can establish legal black holes.

That was wrong when Bush tried it and it's wrong if Obama's trying it. My objection to this has always been to the principle, and I am astonished that some on the left seem to find a reasoning for this as long as it's Obama who is behaving as if he is a King, rather than George W.

In principle this is wrong and it doesn't matter which party the president represents. It doesn't matter if we think the president is a "good guy". There are no "good ways" to give a president powers over people which dispense with their habeas corpus rights.

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