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On the day of Obama's inauguration, I observed that his administration was certain to be a disappointment in some ways. Well, a few such disappointments have cropped up already.

First, his economic package. Paul Krugman looks at Obama's failure to shepherd anything more substantial than a mediocre stimulus bill through Congress, noting that "this was his best chance to get decisive action, and it fell short:"

So has Mr. Obama learned from this experience? Early indications aren't good.

For rather than acknowledge the failure of his political strategy and the damage to his economic strategy, the president tried to put a postpartisan happy face on the whole thing. "Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands," he declared on Saturday, and "the scale and scope of this plan is right."

No, they didn't, and no, it isn't.

Second, Obama wants to expand one of the worst of Bush's domestic policies. DJ Grothe analyzes Obama's planned follow-up on Bush's faith-based fiasco:

As it now stands, Obama's expanded faith based initiative offers only more likelihood of division and church-state entanglements, civil rights violations and government funding of evangelism. It is a threat to a woman's right to choose, and supports the anti-gay and anti-woman conservative "pro-marriage" agenda. And it is naive about the impact of interfaith dialogue abroad.

Finally, the abuse of state secrecy. The ACLU provides an overview of reactions from bloggers and mainstream journalists to some cases in the news this week, and the Center for Constitutional Rights asks, "when will Obama roll back the illegal expansion of executive power he has inherited?" The administration's answer doesn't appear to be a good one, despite campaign promises to the contrary.

CCR's FAQ on state secrets provides a historical primer, with David Luban observing at Balkinization that "The state secrets privilege, used to cover up wrongdoing rather than to protect legitimate national security secrets, is an all-out assault on public accountability and, ultimately, on democracy:"

By now, it's well-known that the state secrets privilege was born in original sin. The 1953 case in which the Supreme Court established it, United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1 (1953), turned out, when documents were declassified nearly half a century later, to be a cover-up of gross negligence under a false assertion that the documents contained national security information.

Scott Horton writes at Harper's that:

Obama need not repudiate the notion of state secrecy. It was debated in the course of the Constitutional Convention and has been invoked by executives at least as early as the Jefferson administration. But roughly 90% of all invocations of state secrecy in court proceedings have occurred in the last eight years, a clear sign that something is terribly wrong in the Department of Justice. State secrecy should exist to protect the nation's military and diplomatic secrets, and those are the parameters which have governed its use since the time the Constitution was adopted. But state secrecy must not be invoked to keep materials secret because they would be politically embarrassing or harmful to individual politicians. And even more clearly, state secrecy must never be invoked to conceal evidence of a crime.

In the case of Binyam Mohamed, [...] the real basis for invocation of state secrets [...] is to obstruct pending criminal investigations and to preclude recovery by the victims of damages on account of the wrongdoing they suffered.

Glenn Greenwald writes (here and here) that, in terms of state secrecy, Obama's administration is:

...invoking the most abusive parts of the Bush theory: namely, that the privilege can be used to block the adjudication of entire cases (rather than, say, justify the concealment of specific classified documents or other pieces of evidence), and, worse still, can be used to prevent judicial scrutiny even when the alleged government conduct is blatantly illegal and, as here, a war crime of the greatest seriousness.

They're embracing a theory that literally places government officials beyond the rule of law. No minimally honest person who criticized the Bush administration for relying on this instrument can defend the Obama administration for doing so here.


It doesn't take much time or energy to understand why that instrument is so pernicious. It enables a Government to break the law -- repeatedly and deliberately -- and then block courts from subjecting its behavior to any judicial accountability, and prevent the public from learning about the lawbreaking, by claiming that its conduct generally is too secret to allow any judicial review. Put another way, it places Presidents and their aides beyond and above the rule of law, since it empowers them to break the law and then prevent their victims -- or anyone else -- from holding them accountable in a court of law.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on February 11, 2009 10:12 PM.

media misinformation case study was the previous entry in this blog.

Dale McGowan: Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers is the next entry in this blog.

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