Sunday, March 08, 2009

This Shouldn't Have Been Necessary

Given what Barack Obama promised during his campaign, this editorial in today's Los Angeles Times should not have had to appear. Candidate Obama decried the excesses of the Bush administration when it came to detention and torture of alleged "enemy combatants," lamented the shredding of the Bill of Rights, and promised transparency in his government. President Obama, however, has stepped back from these stances, equivocating on each issue, apparently intimidated by the dire threats of further attacks emanating from the CIA and the other US intelligence agencies.

The editorial board of the Times noticed and felt compelled to remind him of his promises. They even suggested areas and ways he could keep those promises while still keeping the US safe.

If he wants to close the chapter on the previous administration's excesses, Obama needs to adopt clear policies in the following areas.

* Interrogation. ...Panetta and Obama must make clear that the administration isn't reserving the right to create a loophole for torture. That assurance will be more credible if Obama makes permanent his order that CIA interrogators abide by the Army Field Manual.

* Due process for detainees. ...This cautious approach may reflect Obama's desire to be able to detain dangerous terrorists even if they haven't been convicted of crimes. That position would be more palatable if he moved most accused foreign terrorists -- and any legal U.S. resident -- to civilian courts.

* Legal advice. ...Obama's nominee to head the office, Dawn Johnsen, favors the public release of at least some opinions. As with the state secrets privilege, the Justice Department should aim for maximum transparency in explaining the legal rationale for its policies -- even when they involve national security.

* Investigations of U.S. officials. ...the administration in the future must not overlook evidence of possible perjury or the willful destruction of evidence. And decisions about whether to prosecute should be made by the Justice Department, not by the White House.
[Emphasis in the original]

This editorial, written by the "center-left" board at LAT, is the very least that we should be expecting from the new administration. After noting the president's desire to look forward, not backward, even this group acknowledges that Mr. Obama is hedging and stammering on issues that the people who elected him and the people in the rest of the world want addressed.

If President Obama really wants to look forward, he will have to look at the past to see where the prior administration went wrong so that he can return us to a nation of laws. That means ending the barbarism and the egregious practices that effectively made this nation a dictatorship and it means punishing those who engaged in the foul behavior.

Anything less is actually nothing at all.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

Right on.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous larry, dfh said...

...dire threats...emanating from the CIA and the other US intelligence agencies.
You said it all.
Kill our lucrative opium trade in Afghanistan? I don't think so. Put us on trial for war crimes? Better think again. Here, lemme show you this freeze-frame from the Segruder tapes, digitally enhanced of course. See that red cloud behind JFK's head? In fact we got some tapes of our own, 'case you're interested.

10:05 AM  

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