Human Rights Workers and Obama – A Meeting

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Sam Stein is reporting over at HuffPo that President Obama met with several human rights and civil rights groups yesterday.  The information is still pretty sketchy as to what they brought up, but there’s more information on what Obama had to say:

Speaking to human rights officials on Wednesday, the president also left the door open for the future release of detainee abuse photos, saying that his administration’s current opposition to the release was dictated by immediate concern over the complications it could cause to America’s mission in Afghanistan.

More broadly, Obama said he was determined to build a new structure for executive oversight that would last beyond his presidency, preempting the problems he currently confronts from happening again.

“We talked a lot about the framework in which he is operating, and he talked about his strong desire to reestablish a system under which the executive is not exercising unfettered authority,” said Elisa Massimino, CEO of Human Rights First and an attendee at the Wednesday affair. “One of the chief differences between him and his predecessor was that he didn’t think he ought to be making these decisions in an ad-hoc, unaccountable way. And so he said that, in thinking through this, he was focused on how his successor might operate.”

Nothing new in Obama’s reasons for blocking the photos, except that he did say it was a matter of timing (which he did not say in his initial statement on why he was blocking them, claiming then that it was a matter of “protecting the troops”) — which makes me wonder, of course, what actions our military are planning in Afghanistan.

Information is also sketchy as to who attended this meeting on the human rights side:

Obama, along with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Attorney General Eric Holder, advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, foreign policy hand Dennis McDonough, and counter-terrorism chief John Brennan, held court with a group of academics, as well as officials with the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

I checked the ACLU site and there’s nothing about the meeting there.  I ask whichever intrepid bloggers who are following human rights issues to keep an eye out for any more information about this meeting.

I find it interesting because of the intersection of politics and human rights.  My belief is that unless we see real enforcement of human rights laws by our government, we will always be dependent upon the favor of those in power and the hard work of advocacy groups like the ACLU and CCC, which rarely get the kind of attention from the citizenry they deserve.

This is why I feel it is so important to see those who planned and used the highest powers of our country to torture held accountable the same as any other criminal.  Until we see everyone treated equally under the law, support for human rights will be a matter of mere words and the favor of whoever is in power at the moment.

I’ll keep checking to see if there’s more on this story and if I find anything, I’ll update.


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  1. … has had any other meetings like this with human/civil rights workers, I don’t recall them.

    Sure would have liked to have been a fly on the wall at this one.

  2. is the header for Rachael Maddows coverage of the meeting. She had Michael Isikoff some flack from Newsweek on and he said told a different tale here’s the link

    I too would like to have been a fly. Guess he’s going to talk about it tonight. Most disturbing week yet for civil libertarians as they call us on the TV, like were some kinda wierdo’s, a civil libertarian must mean citizens who want their laws upheld. Not only does the ACLU not get coverage they get a lot of disrespect like they are Code Pink in suits with law degree’s.    

  3. “We talked a lot about the framework in which he is operating, and he talked about his strong desire to reestablish a system under which the executive is not exercising unfettered authority,”

    but there is no hint that there was any discussion of what to do about the past administration and their violation of the Constitution, US law, and our international agreements with other countries.

    How can any reestablishment of our system take place without directly addressing the legal precedent set by BushCo?

    According to HuffPo:

    Obama had “two baskets of issues he wanted to talk about: one was Guantanamo and all of the things pertaining to closing it. And the other was transparency.”

    And both of these issues, while important, are pretty much just illustrations of the larger issue at hand – the war-crimes of the BushCo administration.

    Until those war-crimes are addressed in a courtroom there won’t be any reestablishment of our system which is supposed to rest on the idea that there can be no unitary executive in America.

    • dkmich on May 21, 2009 at 23:17

    He pandered and used the left when he needed them before so what makes this any different?  I don’t trust.  

    • Edger on May 21, 2009 at 23:52

    Watch CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren on The Rachel Maddow Show live tonight on MSNBC at 9:00pm EST.

    After meeting with President Obama at the White House yesterday, Vince will offer his perspective on the president’s speech this morning. He and Rachel will be discussing the new proposals for a preventive detention scheme, for reactivating the fatally flawed Military Commissions, and for both withholding the torture photos that should be released as part of our lawsuit with the ACLU and other human rights groups despite his promises of transparency and for refusing to hold the high level officials responsible for the torture accountable.

  4. at least not out LOUD…

    ACLU website newsroom has:

    New Indefinite Detention Proposal Nevertheless Troubling


    CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; [email protected]

    NEW YORK – The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in response to President Obama’s national security speech today:

    “We welcome President Obama’s stated commitment to the Constitution, the rule of law and the unequivocal rejection of torture. But unlike the president, we believe that continuing with the failed military commissions and creating a new system of indefinite detention without charge is inconsistent with the values that he expressed so eloquently at the National Archives today.”

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