Constitutional Law

Why Is Obama Desperate to Hide the Truth About Bush's Lawbreaking?

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On Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected the federal government's latest attempt to block the most viable lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's illegal warrantless surveillance program. Glenn Greenwald slams the Obama administration for doggedly pressing the Bush administration's argument that the case cannot be tried without compromising national security:

Manifestly, the Obama DOJ has one goal and one goal only here: to prevent any judicial ruling as to whether the Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program was illegal. And they're engaging in extraordinary efforts to ensure that occurs….

Here we have the Obama DOJ…not merely trying desperately to keep the Bush administration's spying activities secret, and not merely devoting itself with full force to preventing disclosure of relevant documents concerning this illegal program, but far worse, doing everything in its power even to prevent any judicial adjudication as to whether the Bush administration broke the law by spying on Americans without warrants. 

Greenwald notes that the Obama administration's position flies in the faces of what Dawn Johnsen, Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, said a year ago about the danger posed by letting Bush's lawbreaking slide:

I'm afraid we are growing immune to just how outrageous and destructive it is, in a democracy, for the President to violate federal statutes in secret. Remember that much of what we know about the Bush administration's violations of statutes…came first only because of leaks and news coverage. Incredibly, we still don't know the full extent of our government's illegal surveillance.

The Obama administration's obsructionism also seems to contradict the president's own position on Bush's decision to circumvent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In December 2007, The Boston Globe asked the candidates for the Democratic and Republican nominations, "Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?" Here is his reply: 

The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes.

Then again, here is what Obama had to say about a proposal by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for a "truth and reconciliation committee" to investigate the Bush administration's illegal actions:  

My view is also that nobody's above the law and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen.

But that, generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.

In January I welcomed Johnsen as a lawyer who might be (in her words) "prepared to say no to the President." A couple of years ago, I noted that the Bush had unsuccessfully pushed a state-secrecy argument in another FISA suit (although the ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in that case ultimately was overturned on lack-of-standing grounds). In 2007 I regretted that Congress (with then-Sen. Obama's support) had repealed the warrant requirement that Bush ignored.

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  1. Why Is Obama Desperately to Hide the Truth About Bush’s Lawbreaking?

    What?

  2. Honor among thieves.

  3. It’s different because Obama is president, not a Republican.

  4. This is an easy one. HE WANTS TO KEEP USING THEM! Question answered.

  5. “The Obama administration’s obsructionism also seems to contradict the president’s own position on Bush’s decision to circumvent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).”

    More change I can believe in!

    Yo, fuck Barack Obama.

    (Shout out to X.)

  6. Articles like this and the one on Obama’s new improved Iraq withdrawal timetable make me miss joe.

  7. Say hello to the new boss…same as the old boss.

    I mean really, did we expect any different? Remember what party supported the Patriot Act even before 9/11. We of all people should not pretend to be shocked by this.

  8. “Heavy lies the crown” et c, et c.

    if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, we must do everything in our power to keep them from being exposed.

  9. “Why Is Obama Desperate to Hide the Truth About Bush’s Lawbreaking?”

    Because he intends to do the exact same things. Again, it was all a lie. You either have to turn on Obama or admit that maybe Bush’s law breaking wasn’t quite such a big deal after all.

  10. Articles like this and the one on Obama’s new improved Iraq withdrawal timetable make me miss joe.

    Why do you think he left (the real reason, of course)? Because we would eat him alive.

  11. Just remember, an unhealthy dose of skepticism is a great idea when evaluating political candidates. Also, voting for people with a track record you can review is preferable to electing ciphers and the inexperienced. If we didn’t learn that in part from Bush, we’re learning it again from Obama.

    America! Restore your greatest virtue! Distrust those in power! And those who want it! Craft your laws and Constitution with that holy writ in mind!

  12. The difference is Obama’s base won’t let him get away with anything just because he’s on our “team.” We actually have principles, you know. Of course the wingnuts have discovered they have principles now that Democrats are in power.

  13. Ha!

  14. The difference is Obama’s base won’t let him get away with anything just because he’s on our “team.” We actually have principles, you know.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  15. We actually have principles, you know.

    Thanks for the comedy relief, Tony.

  16. “The difference is Obama’s base won’t let him get away with anything just because he’s on our “team.” We actually have principles, you know. Of course the wingnuts have discovered they have principles now that Democrats are in power.”

    Dude, you need to be a comedian because that was fucking hilarious.

  17. Sure there’s a lot of idolization of Obama, but this very post cites a prominent liberal blogger who has no compunction of calling Obama out for the same reasons he called Bush out.

    Now find me one single wingnut commenter who doesn’t twist himself in to knots defending anything and everything their wingnut leaders do, no matter how immoral or illegal?

  18. Um, because this is still going on and has been going on at least as far back as Bill Clinton.

    Jacob, why don’t you do some actual research and look into the NSA and Echelon?

    Most Senators don’t have a clue what goes on; journalists have even less of one.

  19. I sure got a laugh out of that one.

  20. The difference is Obama’s base won’t let him get away with anything just because he’s on our “team.” We actually have principles, you know.

    Tony, sweetie… He’s president now. He doesn’t need you. He’s dumping you guys faster than a lawyer dumps the plain girl who supported him as he went to school so that he can marry a trophy wife.

    I feel sorry for you guys.

  21. tarran, good analogy.

  22. Now find me one single wingnut commenter who doesn’t twist himself in to knots defending anything and everything their wingnut leaders do, no matter how immoral or illegal?

    Sorry, Jacob-

    In January I welcomed Johnsen as a lawyer who might be (in her words) “prepared to say no to the President.” A couple of years ago, I noted that the Bush had unsuccessfully pushed a state-secrecy argument in another FISA suit (although the ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in that case ultimately was overturned on lack-of-standing grounds). In 2007 I regretted that Congress (with then-Sen. Obama’s support) had repealed the warrant requirement that Bush ignored.

    Did you even read that, Tony?

  23. I heard a woman on CNN this morning talking about how wrong it is to criticize the President in a time of war and crisis. No shit. She said it without a hint of irony.

  24. My guess is that Obama is scare shitless there will be a terrorist attack on his watch, so he’s private letting the intelligence community have whatever they want. He knows what happened last time there was a terrorist attack on US soil.

    Tony, lots of Republicans turned against Bush. people just forget. Andrew Sullivan supported the Iraq war initially. Pat Buchanen came out strongly against from the start. George Will has had a lot of critical things to say about the Bush administration. So has Robert Novak. There are lots of examples.

  25. Tony, sweetie… He’s president now. He doesn’t need you. He’s dumping you guys faster than a lawyer dumps the plain girl who supported him as he went to school so that he can marry a trophy wife.

    LMAO – grade A++ snark

  26. Any coincidence that Tony appears shortly after joe leaves us?

    Yeah, yeah, stylistically they are different.

    Tony – what is your view on Venezuela as a democracy? I need a new sparring partner.

  27. My guess is that Obama is scare shitless there will be a terrorist attack on his watch, so he’s private letting the intelligence community have whatever they want. He knows what happened last time there was a terrorist attack on US soil.”

    You would be guessing right

  28. Tony, Tony, Tony.

    So much of the commentary here is mocking people who thought Obama was something special and different.

    He’s not. The sooner you realize that, the better.

    You will also find very, very few Red Team people who hang out here, just as you will find very few Blue Team comrades to support any partisan claim that one Team has any inherent moral/ethical/whatever advantages over the other.

    We tend to have vociferous differences of opinion on particular line items, and may prefer one Team’s position over the other on this issue or that, but please, “Team Blue is much better at calling out Our Guys when they cross the line” will only draw derision and well-deserved abuse.

    Because Team Blue is emphatically not good at sticking to principle when there is power or political advantage at stake. Pretty much like Team Red.

  29. He’s not. The sooner you realize that, the better.

    He’s not!!?!?!?

    Damn, I just got done with my stall for my new pony. I just thought it got held up in the mail or something.

  30. I’m confused.

    Is the talking point “He’s just like Bush”, or is the talking point “he’s a radical surrender-monkey socialist”?

  31. he’s a radical surrender-monkey socialist”

    Just call him a surrender-nigger socialist already. No one needs to hear your racist code words.

    Next thing you know chimpanzee cartoons will be acceptable political satire.

  32. Mr. !!! gets a laugh

  33. Mr. !!! gets a laugh

    Yeah, he wins.

  34. BDB, as far as I can tell, the talking points are

    (1) He’s just like Bush on the war on terror and civil liberties. Better PR, but to date little to no change.

    (2) He’s worse than Bush on taxes, spending, and other domestic policies.

  35. “(1) He’s just like Bush on the war on terror”

    Shouldn’t that make you and John thrilled?

  36. Tony,

    The Dem base won’t do shit. They won’t vote a 3rd party candidate after 2000 and voting for the GOP certainly isn’t a good way to send a message on civil liberties. It was obvious this was going to happen when Obama supported telecom immunity and the protest of the liberals who support civil liberties when it’s Democrats trying to take them away were insufficient to make him backtrack. If you couldn’t stop him during the election when the threat of not voting for him was immediately relevant why would you be able to stop him now?

  37. BDB,

    It’s the worst of both worlds.

    When is USA Patriot getting repealed, by the way?

  38. “When is USA Patriot getting repealed, by the way?”

    Doesn’t it sunset? If so they just let it expire.

  39. Or not. I’m not sure what the status is on the various provisions with sunset clauses. Congress renewed some that now expire 12/31/09, but I’ll believe they won’t be renewed (in some form) when I see it. The M.O. of the Obama administration to date is to do something that looks different while continuing to do the same damned thing.

  40. Obama will use Bush’s tools to remove the giant steaming turd from the punchbowl. Said turd was placed there by Bush. Once the newfound diplomacy is wildly succesful, those tools will no longer be necessary. At which time Obama and his people loving democrats will rid the U.S. of all the stupidity that Bush and the hateful republicans enacted. Give the man a little time please. The U.S.of A. won’t be rebuilt in a day.

  41. And no, I am not kidding.

  42. Yes, you are.

  43. Some of you guys are being quite disingenuous…

    The left is criticizing Obama on these issues. And the criticisms are coming quite early in his presidency.

    To try and equate that with the right finally, eventually, during the lame duck period distancing some of his policies (and only insofar as Bush’s policies cost the GOP votes) is the height of hackery.

    If you want to criticize Obama for not following through on his promises thats fine (I’ll be hapy to join in), but please don’t pretend like the left is celebrating/rationalizing/defending his positions the way the right celebrated Bush’s.

    Oh and Andrew Sullivan?? Really? The gay conservative who was more anti-Islam rather than pro-Bush is the example being cited as the right repudiating about Bush?? Will “had some critical things to say”? Those are the saddest examples I have seen. These people never took issue with Bush and his law-breaking, his violating civil liberties or his torturing of prisoners.

    Wake me when RedState or LGF starts criticizing Bush for his actions. Because right now Obama is being called out on by prominent liberals — the right never did that. Even Rachel Maddow has been calling out the Obama admin on her show. Has anyone on Fox (or any mainstream media news outlet) ever called out Bush for his crap??

    Libertarians like to pretend like the two parties are equally morally bankrupt but it isn’t true. The left is more principled (maybe not by leaps and bounds). Many liberals are angry (myself included) and are speaking out in much larger numbers than the right ever did.

  44. Shouldn’t that make you and John thrilled?

    I’m happy he is not rushing to throw away what we have accomplished in Iraq.

    I’m seriously wondering if we aren’t missing an opportunity to get the hell out of Afghanistan, but I’m torn on that one. Afghanistan may be the new flypaper for the jihadis now hanging out in Pakistan; I really don’t know enough to say.

    The left is criticizing Obama on these issues. And the criticisms are coming quite early in his presidency.

    Good, although the volume and vituperation are an order of magnitude lower than what they directed at the exact same policies when Bush was on the letterhead.

    To try and equate that with the right finally, eventually, during the lame duck period distancing some of his policies (and only insofar as Bush’s policies cost the GOP votes) is the height of hackery.

    Oh, horseshit. Bush took a pretty good beating starting years and years ago from the right for kissing up to the Dems in Congress on domestic issues.

  45. The difference is Obama’s base won’t let him get away with anything just because he’s on our “team.” We actually have principles, you know.

    Where are we with that?

  46. Afghanistan may be the new flypaper for the jihadis now hanging out in Pakistan; I really don’t know enough to say.

    You mean the new old flypaper.

  47. Shrug. I told you guys Dems never took you seriously on this stuff. It was just useful campaign rhetoric.

    I’m happy he is not rushing to throw away what we have accomplished in Iraq.

    It’s funny, Iraq is a huge success comapred to Afghanistan right now, and the government we support in Kabui is far more theocratic. Where is the clamoring to get us out of this unwinnable war? Is Obama creating more terrorists?

    We actually have principles, you know.

    Uh huh.

  48. Oh and Andrew Sullivan?? Really? The gay conservative who was more anti-Islam rather than pro-Bush is the example being cited as the right repudiating about Bush?? Will “had some critical things to say”? Those are the saddest examples I have seen.

    So only Republicans who are die-hard Bush fans count? What? In that case, I am horrified that no die-hard Obama supporters are yet criticizing Obama. Come on, Greenwald doesn’t count! He wasn’t really all that pro-Obama in the first place. Only people with a Hope and Change or Yes We Can bumper sticker count.

    Why don’t you try reading what some of these people actually said, and when they said it, rather than assuming that they didn’t criticize until (say) last year?

    Bob Novak was against Iraq from the beginning, George Will got off board sometime in 2005, IIRC. There are other examples. Francis Fukuyama, the famous neocon boogeyman, also became an Iraq war critic back in 2004 or 2005. William Kristol lambasted Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the war way back in 2004 too. These are some of the more prominent conservative commentators out there.

  49. It’s funny, Iraq is a huge success comapred to Afghanistan right now,

    Please refrain from using the phrase “huge success” in reference to a military adventure that has cost trillions of dollars, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of US soldiers, and permanently wounded God knows how many Iraqis and more thousands of Americans–and whose reason for doing has been shown to be utterly false.

    Things are going better in Iraq than they were two years ago. I’ll give you that. But don’t fucking pat yourself on the back, and keep your fingers crossed, as I do, that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart the moment we leave.

  50. The left is criticizing Obama on these issues. And the criticisms are coming quite early in his presidency.

    The warrantless wiretapping program was not publicly known of until 2005, so that’s when you should set the clock ticking on the Right’s attitude toward Bush on this issue. The Left was on the clock in early 2008 when Obama voted for telecom immunity….yet I still remember them gushing over Hopey McChange ever since.

  51. Ya the moral equivalence is just such laziness. It leads to a media that reacts with equal outrage over a BJ in the white house as it does (eventually) to torture. No matter how much liberals and Democrats work at being above reproach in order to stand in moral contrast with the right, it’s never enough because no matter the differences, the two parties are a priori equally corrupt. It’s conventional wisdom!

    The rightwing is very authoritarian in nature. This alone should make libertarians run far from them. Liberals have been in the wilderness for a long time during the completely useless Reagan revolution and the rightwing governments that followed. Now that we’re empowered we feel the need to prove ourselves, and that means not keeping quiet if Obama goes against principles.

  52. Tony,

    Honestly, man, give it a rest. The evils done by Democrats in power are legion. Bush was God-awful, but that doesn’t make the left pure. In fact, they played a large role in supporting what Bush did.

    And if you think Clinton was a great president except for a little sex with an intern, you weren’t paying attention. He abused power almost as much as Bush, with far less provocation (i.e., no 9/11).

  53. Alright, now I’m convinced that Tony is just a Juanita-style performance artist, regaling us with a subtly exaggerated and ironic impersonation of an Obamanaut. But this just gives the game away:

    No matter how much liberals and Democrats work at being above reproach

    Comedy gold.

  54. Tony,

    Ask any regular if I’ve ever criticized Bush.
    Ask if I’ve agreed with Bush when I (rarely) thought he was correct.
    Ask the same two questions about me and Obama while you’re at it.

    Admit it, Obama appears to not wish to surrender any of the prerogatives Bush assumed as president. Whether they involve immoral or unconstitutional acts or not.

  55. Crap, who hasn’t criticized Bush?

  56. And if you think Clinton was a great president except for a little sex with an intern, you weren’t paying attention. He abused power almost as much as Bush, with far less provocation.

    Pro Libertate is right, and no, we’re not talking about Waco: We’re talking about the bombing of another country with no provocation, killing innocents and bringing in Muslim terrorists to destabilize the region – we’re talking about the Balkan War, Clinton’s dirty little secret.

  57. I’m guessing this is just a dog and pony show:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090302/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/terror_memos

    Seriously, that’s not snark. This must be the public face while the court fight to keep the secrets is the less public.

  58. And if you think Clinton was a great president except for a little sex with an intern, you weren’t paying attention. He abused power almost as much as Bush, with far less provocation.

    Remember how he launched the war in Kosovo on the eve of the Starr report? or was that Iraq? Or the Sudan pharma plant? Or those tents in Afghanistan? I can’t remember … .

  59. Don’t forget bombing the Chinese embasy…

  60. Are the progtrssives being set up for a “Night of the Long Knives” for the few principled progressives*.

    * Progressives like to think of themselves as pragmatic, which essentially means their main principle is not actually having any other principles.

  61. J Sub D and RC Dean regularly insult me and I cna tell you for a fact that they criticized Bush often. I did as well. I’m also pretty sure that most democrats would call me a conservative (err rightwing nutjob).

    Tony you are being silly.

  62. Sure there’s a lot of idolization of Obama, but this very post cites a prominent liberal blogger who has no compunction of calling Obama out for the same reasons he called Bush out.

    Greenwald’s a liberal now? But he claimed to be conservative throughout Bush’s terms.

  63. This is quite normal for incoming presidents to not want to spill too much blood on the other side after thier removal from power by the voters. Give it time things have a way of coming around.

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