Monday, February 25, 2013

Obama's evil secrecy

By Frank Moraes 

Glenn Greenwald is one of the most important liberal journalists we have. And of course that means he works for a British newspaper. On Friday, he wrote, "Obama Officials Refuse to Say if Assassination Power Extends to US Soil." This is the kind of stuff that liberals would be all over if the president were a Republican. But a lot of liberals claim that they "trust" Obama to use these powers wisely. Even apart from the absurdity of the claim that anyone with Obama's power can be trusted, isn't it clear that Obama will not always be president? Isn't it clear that these precedents will be used by very bad men in the future? Isn't it obvious that a few generations down the line the president will use the exact same justifications to assassinate troublesome journalists on the streets of New York? It's obvious to me, anyway.

Both CIA head nominee John Brennan and President Obama himself have been asked the same question, "Could the administration carry out drone strikes inside the United States?" In both cases, the answer is, "We aren't doing that and we don't plan to." This is a problem. This implicitly opens the door to a future statement that, "We changed our minds!" It almost screams, "Yes, we can!"

The administration has secret legal documents that justify targeted assassinations of American citizens outside the country. Most of these documents the administration won't even show to the Senate. If this all sounds kind of familiar, it is because this is just like the Bush administration.

And who is the hero in all this? Up until recently, it was pretend libertarian Rand Paul who was all alone. He has promised to filibuster Brennan's nomination vote until he gets an answer to the question, "Do you believe that the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial?" He also says that the only acceptable answer to the question is no. In general, Paul is a total fucktard. But in this case he's my hero. Of course, this says little about him and a whole lot about most politicians and political watchers.

I understand that all administrations are evil. But what I find most troubling about Obama's administration is how much they've followed the Bush administration when it comes to secrecy. Here is Greenwald: 

Critically, the documents that are being concealed by the Obama administration are not operational plans or sensitive secrets. They are legal documents that, like the leaked white paper, simply purport to set forth the president's legal powers of execution and assassination. As Democratic lawyers relentlessly pointed out when the Bush administration also concealed legal memos authorizing presidential powers, keeping such documents secret is literally tantamount to maintaining "secret law." These are legal principles governing what the president can and cannot do -- purported law -- and US citizens are being barred from knowing what those legal claims are.

He goes on to note that there is no justification for keep such documents secret. What he means is that there is no good justification. It is clear that the administration wants to keep these documents secret because the administration knows that the legal reasoning is at best questionable and that if the public knew about them, they would rebel against them. That's the thing about the vast majority of secret government documents. They are secret because the government (or specific powerful people inside it) don't what the American people to know about it. Government secrecy is almost never right. 

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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