Obama Dishes Up A Cup Of Same Old Same Old

(6 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

What a colossal disappointment.  Remember when Barack Obama was going to severely curtail the use of the “state secrets” doctrine, throw the windows open, and let the sun shine in, dispersing Bushco’s unnecessary secrecy?  Forget about it.  That was just eyewash.

Yesterday in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit the Obama Justice Department astonished the three judge panel by sticking with Bushco’s “state secrets” argument in the case of Binyam Mohamed.  

The New York Times reports:

In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration.

In the case, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian native, and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights for the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terrorism suspects were secretly taken to other countries, where they say they were tortured. The Bush administration argued that the case should be dismissed because even discussing it in court could threaten national security and relations with other nations. … snip

…a government lawyer, Douglas N. Letter, made the same state-secrets argument [as Bushco made] on Monday, startling several judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Is there anything material that has happened” that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.

“No, your honor,” Mr. Letter replied.

Judge Schroeder asked, “The change in administration has no bearing?”

Once more, he said, “No, Your Honor.” The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” and “these are the authorized positions,” he said.

There you go.  This is “thoroughly vetted.”  These are “authorized positions.”  It’s the same old.  It’s not exactly change you can believe in, at least not in this case.

Said a spokesperson for the Obama Justice Department:

A Justice Department spokesman, Matt Miller, … seemed to suggest that Mr. Obama would invoke the privilege more sparingly than its predecessor.

“It is the policy of this administration to invoke the state secrets privilege only when necessary and in the most appropriate cases,” he said, adding that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had asked for a review of pending cases in which the government had previously asserted a state secret privilege.

“The attorney general has directed that senior Justice Department officials review all assertions of the state secrets privilege to ensure that the privilege is being invoked only in legally appropriate situations,” he said. “It is vital that we protect information that, if released, could jeopardize national security.”

That review, folks, isn’t worth a cup of warm spit.  That review allowed “state secrets” to be asserted in this case.  Evidently, it doesn’t matter that the court papers

describe horrific treatment in secret prisons. Mr. Mohamed claimed that during his detention in Morocco, “he was routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion, loss of consciousness. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions on his body, including his penis. A hot stinging liquid was then poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution and death.”

Evidently it doesn’t matter that everybody in the world already has access to virtually everything about Binyam Mohamed’s illegal extradition, torture, and continuous confinement.  Pointing out how widely reported Binyam Mohamed’s case has been, Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U., told the judges that what the government was trying to keep secret by asserting the “state secrets” doctrine isn’t secret at all.  The details of the administration’s “extraordinary rendition program” (read: illegal extraditions) have already been told, as have how those facts applied to the plaintiffs. “The only place in the world where these claims can’t be discussed,” Mr. Wizner said, “is in this courtroom.”

Maybe the moderate/liberal panel of the Ninth Circuit that heard this case will overturn it.  I hope so.  But my disappointment at the position taken by the Obama Justice Department leaves me shaking my head in sorrow.  This isn’t change we can believe it.  It’s not old wine in new bottles.  It’s just the same old same old.


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  1. Maybe I should have known that this would happen, but to be frank, I thought it wouldn’t.  How many “l’s” are there in gullible.

    Thanks for reading.  

    • ANKOSS on February 10, 2009 at 17:40

    My guess is that Obama is under pressure to keep secrets regarding “special relationships” between the US and friendly Arab governments, like Egypt and Jordan. The dirty subject of rendition can’t be aired in courtrooms without dirty relationships among intelligence services being disclosed. If the Arab street were to learn of the willingness of some of their leaders to outsource torture for America, those shaky governments would be further undermined, and the intelligence they provide would likely diminish.

    Obama is learning about the ugly realpolitik that America practices in the Mideast, and this harsh education is pushing aside the humanitarian considerations that were prominent during his campaign.

    • Edger on February 10, 2009 at 17:43

    is not blown away over this with the loudest possible public outcry, disgust and shaming he’s ever heard and millions of people threatening to fire his ass out of there in 2012 if he doesn’t stop this bullshit, then nothing will change, and his election meant nothing except that many people will allow themselves to excuse torture and sweep it under the rug and allow themselves to be bought off with promises of a little more comfort from some of his domestic policies.

    Maybe he is smarter than the people who voted for him after all.

    I hope the CCR and the ACLU and everybody else in the world drags his ass though court over this.

    But he shouldn’t need a court ruling to know what to do,and it shouldn’t take a court ruling to make him do it. We had 8 years of Bush and the media selling a fictitious war on terror. We don’t need Obama doing it too, and effectively pardoning torturers at the same time.

    “Ford should have been stood up against a wall and shot for that pardon…”

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    • Edger on February 10, 2009 at 17:53

    of the Geneva Conventions and therefore also in open violation of US law, and accessories at least morally if not legally to the war crimes of Bush and Cheney.

    Obama’s Duty To Prosecute Bush For War Crimes

    Patriot Daily, Mon Dec 29, 2008

    As President, Obama will have the constitutional duty to faithfully execute our laws.  

    The constitutional oath of office requires that our President faithfully execute the office of President and preserve, protect and defend our Constitution. Our constitution also requires that our presidents “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  The principle of the rule of law is partially based on this Faithfully Execute clause which requires our President to comply with laws, our Constitution and treaties because our Constitution established a government of laws, not of men and women.

    The Geneva Convention is one of the laws which must be faithfully executed.

    Our constitution mandates that treaties are one of the laws that the President must faithfully execute.  Moreover, treaties are recognized as one of our supreme laws of the land alongside our Constitution and federal laws.  For over 200 years, the federal courts have reaffirmed that our President is bound by the laws of war, which include conventions. In fact, both Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) addressed the issue of whether the US government was violating the terms of the 1949 Geneva Convention.  Yet, some will whine that it is partisan to not exempt Bush from 200 years of precedent that governed presidents from both parties.

    The Geneva Convention imposes a duty to prosecute former presidents who committed war crimes.

    The Geneva Convention mandates that the US “search” for persons “alleged” to have committed or ordered the commission of “torture or inhuman treatment” and then prosecute in our courts or extradite to another country for prosecution. The “grave breaches” protected by the Convention also include the rendition or  “unlawful transfer of a non-prisoner of war from occupied territory.”


  2. A full-fledged member of the duoparty and their criminal actions.  Period.  You may want to bang your head against the walls, but it won’t change the fact.

    Now, what do we do about it?

  3. Either they were lying through their teeth (likely), being opaque enough when talking about things that it turns out they really didn’t say they wouldn’t (also likely), or some combination of the two.

    Or Obama is actually the Anti-Christ, in which case it doesn’t really matter.

    Just sayin’.

  4. He can’t or won’t do what needs to be done, he’s trying to prop up a broken system but it’s too far gone, IMO.

  5. This position by Obama is unbelievable — very disgusting.  And since the whole world knows that we’ve renditioned and tortured people in Aghanistan, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq and Guantanamo anyway, I don’t see how whatever information that is being withheld can come under the classification of “state secrets” — who’s trying to protect who?

    We could make phone calls to Holder and tell his office how we feel about this situation.  In fact, I’m going to do that!

  6. Bob Fertik has a rather lengthy article spelling out, literally, deaths by torture.

    Submitted by Bob Fertik

    on January 25, 2009 – 12:12pm.

    Bush Prosecution Torture

    The Busheviks have done a brilliant job of bamboozling Americans about the brutality of their torture methods. But there’s one thing that can’t be bamboozled, and that’s when torture results in death.

    How many prisoners have been tortured to death? And what are their names? I have not found a complete list; below are the best sources I can find.

    Much of the documentation comes from FOIA requests filed in October 2003 by the ACLU and New York Civil Liberties Union, along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace

    On 10/24/05, the ACLU released a list of 70 deaths (without names) based on autopsy reports. Of those, 14 are classified as “homicide,” including this prisoner from Helmand Province, Afghanistan:  Manadel al-Jamadi with Sgt. Graner

    Death caused by the multiple blunt force injuries of the lower torso and legs complicated by rhabdommyolisis (release of toxic byproducs into the system due to destruction of muscle). Manner of death is homicide.

    In February 2006, Human Rights First documented 20 deaths, providing photos and in-depth articles on each: . . . .

    There are different accountings of different people and in most, the manner of death is listed.  

    Why don’t we have a Special Prosecutor yet?

  7. …what keeps going through my head…if anyone cares at this point (not much, I’m guessing)…is that residents of vast and cruel empires have faced this exact personal dilemma since the first three villages raised an army and a police force.  We all want to belong to something good, to something larger than ourselves, and we all want to have some faith in the social deal.  And…systems which lead the world in prison inmates, military bases, military spending, and per capita resource consumption…er…what exactly are we holding them to, again?  I can’t share the sorrow, because it just takes me back…to the same place.  If that makes any sense.

    I do realize that the general trend is to either turn into some version of a thrilled yet cautious apologist or rail at the empire’s injustice, in the hope of a better world (or some appropriate combination).  But after eight years of stewing on this…and watching so many committed liberal folks feel like they are finally getting back America (when the most any sane person might hope for is a less evil king — and glad of it!)…I finally answered, for myself, the question which has been going through my head since Bush I.  “What would you have done if you

    lived in the time when ‘I am a Camera’ was written?  What would you have done if you’d been a citizen of the Weimar Republic?”  (no apologies for the reference — it will do fine for these purposes).  And the answer, which is glaringly obvious and has been in front of me all this time, is simple — the same thing the queer and largely disenfranchised did then.  Attempt to survive, and treat my friends decently, and stay out of the way of the machine, to the degree one can do so and live with oneself…

    Sorry…good diary…just one of those days…  

  8. Here.

  9. Did I say it here?  Even before inauguration day?

    Something about having a Pelosi let down of galactic proportions?



    Including millions for Bush’s brand of Homeboy Stupidity most definitely does not signal “change”.

  10. .. after the fiascoes of the first couple of weeks.

    Obama’s a war criminal for not actively prosecuting the BushCo war criminals.  Plus he’s bombing people in Pakistan anyway so not much has changed since Bush.

    I didn’t expect much from him, but he continues to lower the bar.

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