“How Dare You, Mr. President!!!”
That isn’t coming from me. That’s coming from the BDS “civil libertarian” lefties who are having conniptions over President Obama’s Bush-like approach towards terrorists abroad and in custody. Don’t get me wrong; Obama’s “review” of Gitmo, with the possible intention towards closing the detention facility, is very worrying. So was his request to suspend the military tribunals Congress authorized (the 2006 Military Commissions Act), as well as his withdrawal of charges against U.S.S. Cole and 9/11 terrorist Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (which may be refiled later; this act upset families of those murdered in those terrorist attacks). But Obama hasn’t completely abandoned the idea that the U.S. is still at war against these terrorist fiends; in fact, everything indicates he intends to keep much of what the Bush administration put in place. Remember, Obama voted for the updates to FISA last year, complete with giving telecommunications companies, those that helped the Bush administration with the Terrorist Surveillance Program, immunity from lawsuits (there is still an outstanding challenge to this section of the law winding its way through the courts; if the challenge fails, and there’s every reason to believe it will fail, approximately 40 outstanding lawsuits against the telecoms can be virtually dismissed instantly). If anything, conservatives should cite Obama’s hypocritical campaign rhetoric that got him the Democratic nomination.
But what I want to do here is to highlight the rising anger from the left who seem to believe Obama set them up with P.T. Barnum-esque affinity. Based on what I see, they have; they’ve been played for suckers. The problem is Obama’s Executive Orders; they are so nuanced as to be cringe-worthy, and have enough loopholes to drive a freight train through. Additionally, his campaign rhetoric on many of the issues these “true believers in civil liberties” supported him on have fallen by the wayside very rapidly. That isn’t just good for conservatives, this is good for all Americans. The latest has to do with detention of terrorists and Obama’s defense of the state secrets privilege.
For the former, Spencer Ackerman whines how the Obama administration will continue to hold terrorists indefinitely. He notes that even Attorney General Eric Holder believes the country is at war with Al Qaeda (and has been since at least 1998), and that solicitor general-designate Elena Kagan stated the U.S. can keep captured terrorists detained without trial as “war prisoners” (note that she didn’t use the phrase “prisoners of war”, which has a whole different legal implication; but I digress). Somehow, Ackerman believes this is ambiguous:
Also ambiguous is what Kagan meant: do battlefield captures in a war without a clear endpoint equate to total military discretion over the length of a person’s detention?
I believe Ackerman doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. What is this obsession the left has regarding a war’s “clear endpoint”? President Bush made the endpoint clear years ago; the U.S. would fight Al Qaeda until justice came to the terrorists (killed on the battlefield or tried for war crimes by military tribunal), or they surrendered unconditionally. At this point, Obama hasn’t changed that one bit, and neither have those he’s picked for his administration.
The other part of Ackerman’s tale of woe is how some of these people will continue to be detained without facing trial. Excuse me, but that’s exactly what we did to thousands upon thousands of German prisoners captured in World War II.
The bottom line is that Ackerman refuses to believe the U.S. is actually at war, a problem for many others on the left as well.
Even Darren Hutchinson wonders where there is a difference between the Bush and Obama administrations.
Obama is also vigorously defending the state secrets privilege in various suits against the government. This privilege was used successfully by the government in the blockbuster (to me, anyway) ACLU v. NSA. It started when the Obama administration took up where the Bush administration left off in defending the government in the Al-Haramain v. Bush case, using the state secrets privilege defense in an appeal to overturn Judge Vaughan Walker’s ruling that the government had to turn over classified evidence to plaintiffs’ attorneys.
As with Ackerman and Hutchinson and the detaining of “war prisoners”, Glenn Greenwald is in a tizzy over the Obama administrations apparent 180 on using the state secrets privilege. As is usual with Greenwald, there is no mention that there is a war on; his usual argument is that fighting terrorism is nothing more than the government engaging in fearmongering. The latest “outrage” from the left on the state secrets privilege is Mohamed v. Jeppesen, a lawsuit by a Gitmo detainee who claimed he was tortured and is seeking restitution from a company that assisted the CIA in his rendition to Morocco prior to him going to Gitmo (a suit was filed in Britain as well; the High Court of the UK found that evidence of his alleged torture cannot be released to the public). In what Greenwald believes is an about-face for the Obama administration, it took the same position as the Bush administration as it relates to this case. Marc Ambinder explains it [emphasis from original]:
The answer, I take it, is not going to satisfy critics, but here it is, based on discussions with administration officials and outside experts: Mohamed v. Jeppesen will not be the vehicle used to review or recast the state secrets privilege. Aside from the assertion of the privilege, which has been reviewed, asking for a continuance would be publicly interpreted as a re-reviewing (and, indeed, a retracting) of its assertion of the privilege, and the Obama Administration has no plans to do so formally. They’re sensitive to the politics of the case, but they’re not motivated by what civil libertarians may write on their blogs.
The bottom line is that the Obama administration has reviewed the state secrets privilege, and will pick and choose when not to use it. Per Ambinder, Mohamed v. Jeppesen isn’t the place to do it.
The other thing about Greenwald is his hypocritical claim that he believes in civil liberties. He accepts as proof, without evidence, that the Bush administration is already guilty of this and that war crime, while at the same time continuing to call captured terrorists, those at war with us (a war he refuses or barely acknowledges; it also means they aren’t subject to the protections of the Constitution), as “alleged” or “suspected” terrorists. His absolute hatred of Bush and those of his administration, as well as those other leftists claiming to be “civil libertarians”, has completely clouded his judgment of the constitutionally-protected rights of his fellow Americans, that they are innocent until proven guilty.
Obama has made some moves that were completely wrong in the eyes of many Americans, especially temporarily shutting down the military tribunals now that they are finally ready to go, and calling for closing Gitmo (provided a review determines it can be done). He may yet abandon the effort to defeat the terrorist vermin the U.S. is at war with. But he hasn’t yet, and there is every indication Obama isn’t going to anytime soon, and may not throughout his Presidency (however long that is). We conservatives need to acknowledge that many of the most controversial Obama administration officials believe the U.S. is at war, and not engage in the types of criticism done by the left these past eight years. What it does is it allows conservatives to hold Obama properly accountable for his actions if he ever does do a complete 180 on these policies. And, we will have the ammunition to back it up.