From DISSENTING JUSTICE
Recently, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration would likely bring back the controversial military commissions in order to prosecute terrorism suspects. During the Bush administration, the commissions generated a lot heat among civil libertarians in the United States and abroad.
In a prior blog post on this subject, I summarized the policies that Obama has pursued, but which liberals passionately criticized during the Bush administration. I have reprinted that list below, with an obvious modification.
The Obama administration has embraced many of the same positions that liberals and Obama himself criticized during the Bush administration. For example:
* Obama and members of his administration have embraced the use of rendition. Many of Obama’s most ardent defenders blasted progressives who criticized Obama on rendition as jumping the gun. Today, their arguments look even more problematic than in the past.
* Obama has invoked the maligned “state secrets” defense as a complete bar to lawsuits challenging potential human rights and constitutional law violations.
* Obama has argued that detainees at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan do not qualify for habeas corpus rights, even though many of the detainees at the facility were not captured in the war or in Afghanistan.
* Even though it no longer uses the phrase “enemy combatants,” the Obama administration has taken the position that the government can indefinitely detain individuals, whether or not they engaged in torture and whether or not they fought the United States on the “battlefield.” This logic combined with the denial of habeas to detainees in Afghanistan could make Bagram the functional equivalent of Guantanamo Bay.
* Now, it is clear that the Obama administration will use a “kinder, gentler” military commissions process to prosecute terrorism suspects — despite liberal condemnation of the proceedings during the Bush administration and the curtailment of due process that this decision will naturally involve.
It remains unclear, however, whether these contradictions will erode any of Obama’s political support. Despite his blatant departure from some of the most important progressive issues that defined his campaign, most liberals remain quite pleased with Obama’s performance.
ABC News: As we wait for answers, Pelosi has found relatively few allies among her fellow Democrats. Pressed by reporters yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., allowed that “what was said and when it was said, who said it” should be part of a congressional inquiry — though his aides later explained that he was not referring specifically to Pelosi. Some Democrats may even be making things more difficult for the speaker. Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told AFP: “I don’t want to make an apology for anybody, but in 2002, it wasn’t 2006, 07, 08 or 09. It was right after 9/11, and there were in fact discussions about a second wave of attacks.”
Rove in the WSJ: Someone important appears not to be telling the truth about her knowledge of the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). That someone is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The political persecution of Bush administration officials she has been pushing may now ensnare her.
Christian Science Monitor: As the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R) of California said that she had been briefed about the prospect of waterboarding, but was not aware that it was being used in practice. But a CIA document released last week at GOP urging cited 40 classified briefings with top Democratic and Republican lawmakers on interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. The report, covering briefings between September 2002 and March 2009, relit the controversy. Democrats are wary that broadening the scope of the investigation not only threatens leaders like Representative Pelosi, but could also compromise the climate for other congressional investigations by politicizing the issue further.
San Francisco Chronicle: Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, ironically has taken the brunt of the fallout from President Obama’s releasing of Bush administration “torture memos,” which were made public last month against the advice of Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta, a former congressman from Monterey
DC Examiner: “I don’t think it would be wise for her to respond to these various charges,” said Richard Goodstein, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. “This would be like death from a thousand cuts if she did.”
Newsweek: Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims she wasn’t told about it, evidence suggests she and other senior members of the intelligence committees were briefed extensively on the use of waterboarding in fall 2002. One official quoted in The Washington Post said, “The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people’.”
The Hill: Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said it looks like Pelosi “knuckled under to national security” and accepted Bush administration explanations. “I’m deeply disappointed to learn that Nancy Pelosi knew about what was going on at a time when Congress would have been in a position to do something about it,” Warren said. “During the Bush administration, Democrats were uniformly weak on recognizing legitimate human rights issues wrapped up in national security.”
Politico: The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart (Rep. Tony Weiner’s old roommate) is not so very impressed with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s public statements on the waterboarding issue. Stewart, speaking over a graphic featuring Pelosi’s face atop the “Waffle House” logo, scoffed at the speaker’s much-disputed assertion she had never been briefed on the use of ‘boarding — but had merely been told the Bush administration had the legal right to conduct harsh interrogations.
Time: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina fired right back, suggesting that the hearing would be a “political stunt.” Graham was right — and he was a skillful stuntman. He took potshots at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, questioning her recollection of what she was told by the CIA several years ago about the interrogation methods being used.
AP: Graham called the hearing a “political stunt” and said Democrats were trying to judge officials who — soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks — “woke up one morning like most Americans and said, ‘Oh, my God, what’s coming next?’” He also joined in the frequent Republican criticism that members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were briefed on the interrogation program and raised no protest at the time.
The Hill: The question of what Pelosi knew and when she knew it has led to two more important, and potentially politically damaging, questions. If Pelosi was briefed just on enhanced interrogation techniques and the legal green light the administration had received to use them, how could she not understand they would be used? And even if Pelosi assumed her briefing to be an abstract discussion, but she found such procedures objectionable, why did she choose to do nothing?
Politico: The lone Republican who sat in on the hearing portrayed the testimony as politically motivated and warned that any future inquiries into should also focus on what members of Congress knew at the time that harsh interrogation tactics were being employed. And he wasn’t afraid to highlight that Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed early on about the program. “I don’t want to go retry Nancy Pelosi, that’s not my goal,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), top Republican on the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. “But if you’re going to accuse these people in the Bush administration of being evil or of committing a crime, and she was told about it – I want to know what she was told.”
Financial Times: Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, has been caught in the crossfire after revelations she was briefed about the authorisation of waterboarding and other harsh forms of interrogation in 2002 and made no objections at the time.
Fox News: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly was told in February 2003 by her intelligence aide, Michael Sheehy, that waterboarding was used on CIA terror detainee Abu Zubaydah, directly contradicting Pelosi’s account that she had never been informed of the technique’s use.
Washington Times: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has come under fire from Republicans for attacking the use of the interrogation techniques, including waterboarding – a form of simulated drowning, on which she was briefed by the CIA in 2002. High-ranking lawmakers from both parties received classified briefings on the techniques over several years and did not actively seek to end their use. One Republican senator at the hearing questioned why CIA officials would have told lawmakers about the program if they were doing something unlawful. “If you’re trying to commit a crime, it seems like that’d be the last thing you do. … You would not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “These interrogation techniques were shared with members of Congress who somehow can’t remember what they’re told.”