Obama Green Lights Congressional Investigations and DOJ Prosecutions

Though, as usual, obliquely. After eight years of executive tyranny , the DOJ and Congress have been conditioned to follow the lead of the President rather than act as the independent bodies that they are. Perhaps this will help.

After all, Speaker Pelosi has full power to call for investigations, form committees, assign investigative powers in many ways. She has called for investigations, for a Truth Commission….but done nothing to pursue them. What was she waiting for? Perhaps a signal of permission from the POTUS. If so, I hope she was listening.

The relevant passage….

That is what I mean when I say that we need to focus on the future. I recognize that many still have a strong desire to focus on the past. When it comes to the actions of the last eight years, some Americans are angry; others want to re-fight debates that have been settled, most clearly at the ballot box in November. And I know that these debates lead directly to a call for a fuller accounting, perhaps through an Independent Commission.

I have opposed the creation of such a Commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws.

I understand that it is no secret that there is a tendency in Washington to spend our time pointing fingers at one another. And our media culture feeds the impulses that lead to a good fight. Nothing will contribute more to that than an extended re-litigation of the last eight years. Already, we have seen how that kind of effort only leads those in Washington to different sides laying blame, and can distract us from focusing our time, our effort, and our politics on the challenges of the future.

We see that, above all, in how the recent debate has been obscured by two opposite and absolutist ends.  On one side of the spectrum, there are those who make little allowance for the unique challenges posed by terrorism, and who would almost never put national security over transparency. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who embrace a view that can be summarized in two words: “anything goes.” Their arguments suggest that the ends of fighting terrorism can be used to justify any means, and that the President should have blanket authority to do whatever he wants – provided that it is a President with whom they agree.

Both sides may be sincere in their views, but neither side is right. The American people are not absolutist, and they don’t elect us to impose a rigid ideology on our problems. They know that we need not sacrifice our security for our values, nor sacrifice our values for our security, so long as we approach difficult questions with honesty, and care, and a dose of common sense. That, after all, is the unique genius of America. That is the challenge laid down by our Constitution. That has been the source of our strength through the ages. That is what makes the United States of America different as a nation.

I can stand here today, as President of the United States, and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture, and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Make no mistake: if we fail to turn the page on the approach that was taken over the past several years, then I will not be able to say that as President. And if we cannot stand for those core values, then we are not keeping faith with the documents that are enshrined in this hall.

Full text and video can be found here…


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  1. Photobucket

    Not just because of this speech of course, but the momentum is certainly there.

  2. … yes, I think this will lead to SOME investigation.

    But to a smaller observation, this:

    I have opposed the creation of such a Commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws.

    I know, I know, he can’t use the words, it wouldn’t be seemly.

    So I will because I’m not a politician.

    There was no abuse of our values.  There were crimes.

    It is not enhanced interrogation techniques.  It is torture.


  3. dday acknowledges that Obama’s speech is “a fine collection of words.”

    But in his meeting with civil liberties and human rights groups yesterday, Obama suggested that he – not the Attorney General – would not allow such prosecutions to take place.

    So in public, the President gave a pretty speech about upholding the rule of law, but inside the White House, he vows not to uphold it, to do precisely the opposite of what he claims to believe makes us “who we are as a people.” In fact, it does violence to the rule of law for the President to even decide who does and does not get prosecuted, as that is nowhere near within his jurisdiction. And as each new revelation about criminal activity committed at the highest levels comes out, the hollowness of Obama’s rhetoric becomes more and more clear.

  4. Obama’s speech.  He kept talking about us being a nation of laws, and he, as having taken the oath of office under the rules of law, yet he opposes independent commissions for investigations of past “wrong-doings” — war crimes!  

    He spoke only of Guantanamo — but what about other prisons, such as detainees being held at Bagram?

    The problem I see, too, is since these people at Guantanamo have never been charged with anything, how can it be determined as to which categories, he mentioned, might they be found in.  As to type of detainee, take No. 5 — detainees who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but are dangerous?  Also, I fear, as to the military commissions’ type trials, despite some assurances as to legal protection for detainees, how can we know that they will not conjure up all kinds of criminal activities to charge these people with to make their detention appear to be legitimate? I say this because, as we now know and Col. Wilkerson confirmed, out of 800 detainees, only about 2 dozen were considered to be of so-called high value.

    Obama made many contradictory statements.  I think he believes he can satisfy arguments from both sides of the coin.


    It’s laughable, Cheney seems to think he’s still running this country — and the media complies.  Someone needs to sit on him and tell him he’s no longer the Vice-President of the United States.

  5. …the same question that’s been dogging all of us about why he would shield the previous administration from accountability for war crimes kept running through my mind.

    I’ve gone round and round and round with all the logical fallacies invoked by vague comments in speeches.

    Then something occured to me — a question.  And I’m not even sure I know how to frame the question adequately.  But I’ll try.

    If the executives in the previous administration — acting under color of law, however sketchy — if they were prosecuted before the detainees were dealt with, would detainees be able to use the specter of an illigitimate administration by virtue of their criminal actions as reasons for their cases to be dismissed?

    Would the government writ be negated if the executives who made these decisions be impeached, prosecuted, and convicted for war crimes?

    Can the Torture 13 be separated from our government for prosecution?  Or are they one and the same with our government, inseparable from the government?

  6. ..said that the neocons’ goal was to size down the federal government small enough to be drowned in a bathtub.

    TX Gov. Perry has been making noises of secession.  The governor of Indiana is refusing highway funds and planning to develop that superhighway on the cheap — most likely with foreign labor.  Look at all the governors who say they won’t accept stimulus funds.

    If the actual goal of the bush administration was to crash our federal government so as to render the government writ weak or ineffective by tying all the legitimate processes into a Gordian knot with help from the Republican lawbreakers er…lawmakers, maybe they came close to succeeding in accomplishing Grover’s dream.

    Maybe they’re still trying to destroy our republic.

  7. . . . but I do wonder sometimes if Obama is somehow playing for time for the outrage to build up, and for the full judgement of the American people, in its full wrath can be harnessed.  As the details drip into the discourse, and as the ‘Cons emotional attachment to the Bushies continues to weaken over time, it’s possible that one day demanding prosecutions will be the only political choice.

    Of course I think we hit that spot years ago but I’m probably some ranting leftist.

  8. is what seems to be the operating procedure of this Administration, and I think, based on the way Obama ran his campaign as a change agent when he is just Establishment to the core, we will continue to see why he won Marketer of the Year in 2008.


    Ex parte Milligan (1866), said:

       “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men at all times and in all circumstances. No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government.”


    The rule of law according to Obama is a very selective thing.

  9. I appreciate everyone’s optimism, but there is no way Barack Obama is going to order Eric Holder to investigate a system of preventative detention that Obama just announced in the very same speech that he wants to legalize. The two ideas are simply incompatible.

    That language about the Congress investigating and the DoJ prosecuting is laughable considering how ethically compromised both institutions are on this issue.   Or, to put it another way, do we really think these people are going to vigorously investigate themselves about how they signed off on war crimes?

    This is also telling:

    It was at that point, toward the end of the meeting, that one attendee raised the idea of criminal prosecution of at least one Bush-era official, if only as a symbolic gesture. Obama dismissed the idea, several of those in attendance said, making it clear that he had no interest in such an investigation.  Holder-whose department is supposed to make the call on criminal prosecutions-reportedly said nothing.

    Not that I think a commission whitewash is the way to go either.  Unless of course, you believe the 9/11 commission reported the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – something even commission members don’t believe.

    The only way to be sure of getting to the unconflicted bottom of all this is with a special prosecutor (notice how Obama never even mentioned that option?).  Any other ‘solution’ is simply a smokescreen.  

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