Ghastly Gibbs Galls Good Gringoes
By Brian Small at Aug 14, 2010
Just how different is this Press Secretary from previous Press Secretaries. I think Jon Stewart had a piec on the lack of contrast at the beginning of the Obama reign, er Presidency. DemocracyNow! had Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU on to good effect. Funny how the Obama administration seems to think that implementing single payer (Canadian) healthcare is about as likely as getting rid of the entire Defense Budget(Pentagon)..
And a lot of us agree that the last administration’s argument for worldwide detention authority, the authority to detain people without charge or trial, was extreme and unlawful. This administration is claiming worldwide execution authority. Suspected terrorists are targeted for execution wherever they are in the world. And that’s—you know, there are many problems with that policy, but one of them is that inevitably we will get it wrong sometimes. And you only need to look to Guantánamo, for example, to see dozens and dozens of situations where we initially labeled somebody a terrorist and then, many years later, looked at the evidence and found that the evidence was nonexistent or just wrong. And it’s one thing to get it wrong in the context of detention. With detention, there’s always the possibility of appeal and the possibility eventually of release. But there is no appeal from a drone.
And, closer to home
Some of what was going on under the last administration was going on in spite of federal law that prohibited it. That was true, for example, with the warrantless wiretapping program. And then Congress authorized the warrantless wiretapping that President Bush had authorized in violation of statute. So now you have a statute that authorizes precisely what President Bush was doing illegally between 2001 and 2006. But what we had hoped was that that statute would be tested, the constitutionality of that statute would be tested in the courts.
Rather than defend the statute on the merits or, even better, concede the unconstitutionality of the statute, the Obama administration has invoked the state secrets privilege and the standing doctrine to try to protect that statue from judicial review. And the standing argument they’re making is that the only people who can challenge this kind of surveillance are people who can prove that their own communications were acquired. And nobody can prove that their own communications were acquired, because the administration doesn’t—often for good reason, doesn’t disclose the names of its surveillance targets. So, to say that the only people who can challenge the statute are people who can show their communications were acquired under it is to say that the statute is immune from judicial review. And that’s the problem with the argument that the administration is making right now.