Hold Fast

A Blog by Matt Browner Hamlin

Hold Fast - a blog by Matt Browner Hamlin

Secrecy and Executive Power

March 2nd, 2009 · 30 Comments

Glenn Greenwald’s description of the common liberal sentiment that “Bush’s secrecy theories and assertions of unchallengeable executive power were grave and tyrannical threats to liberty” is spot-on. But as Greenwald notes, these same assertions of power and privilege are no less grave in the Obama administration. The similarities between the Obama administration’s response to the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling in the Al-Haramain case, requiring the government to turn over classified information and the legal views espoused under the Bush-Cheney administration by the likes of John Yoo and David Addington are simply stunning.

I expect better from the Obama administration. They must be able to make decisions that honor the Constitution. President Obama must not only have, but seek out, counsel that prioritizes the rule of law over the preservation and protection of executive branch powers.

I don’t know if the Obama administration’s response to the 9th Circuit ruling is due to the advice of President Obama, Vice President Biden, AG Eric Holder, dead ender US attorneys from the Bush administration, or a combination of these people.  But to paraphrase John McCain, either President Obama or someone who values the Constitution and isn’t going to like this (Dodd, Feingold & Leahy come to mind), should get his cohort in the room and tell them to stop the bullshit. We didn’t elect President Obama to preserve the Bush administration’s anti-contistutional executive power grab. We elected him to end it.

Update:

Welcome to readers of Glenn Greenwald’s Unclaimed Territory!

Did you like this? Share it:

Tags: Rule of Law

30 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kitt // Mar 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    To be clear, are you suggesting that Obama is being lackadaisical about what is going on in his Justice Department to the point of either not knowing or at least not taking it seriously enough to ‘stop the bullshit’ himself? I find it hard to believe that he is not numero uno hombre behind what is happening here. I would like for him to tell us, and his Justice Department, otherwise if that is not the case. I would like to see a swift end to this horrible, ongoing mess.

  • 2 Matt Browner Hamlin // Mar 2, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Honestly, I don’t know. Either he’s in the loop and is part of the problem…or he isn’t in the loop and he can be part of the solution.

  • 3 Dan Becker // Mar 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Is it time to be concerned about what kind of judges he will start appointing?

  • 4 Matt Browner Hamlin // Mar 2, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I think we should always be concerned about what kind of judges our president seeks to appoint. I don’t think Obama has given anything in that area to specifically be concerned, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be pressured to appoint liberal judges who will uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.

  • 5 Jeffrey Lamkin // Mar 2, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    And, we must keep stoking the fires of outrage.

    My last, dying symptom of Obama blindness is a hope that, perhaps, he has decided to “hyperfocus” on one issue at a time and leave lesser things to his helpers. That is, until he has to get involved to put a fire out. Let’s face it. The man has had stuff to deal with lately.

    Maybe he hasn’t payed enough attention yet to the whole state secrets thing. That’s why the drumbeat from freedom lovers everywhere is so important.

  • 6 Rod P. // Mar 2, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Try this theory on:
    BushCo was even more nefarious than we know, and should the full story emerge, we would be looking at a former president and his vice going to prison for a long time. Obama desperately fears that the resultant uproar would overwhelm his administration’s efforts in all other areas — efforts critical to keeping this nation out of deep depression. Therefore, he is intent on keeping a lid on it all for now and leaving it for historians to sort out. I don’t for a minute agree with such a line of thought, and Obama should not be allowed to succeed in this. But I do believe that could be motivating his actions.

  • 7 JT74 // Mar 2, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    What court is hearing this incredible argument? Tell us which one it is, so we can, as citizens of this country, start pounding on its doors, calling it, mailing it and petitioning it to tell our president NO. Can’t the court cite some Nixon era Supreme Court precedent and strike down this audacious Yoo-esque and anti-constitutional claim summarily? This argument posed by Yoo and now, by the Obama Administration can be and must be struck down if the courts are to maintain their constitutional perogatives and any self-respect, much less respect for the rule of law.

  • 8 Casual Observer // Mar 2, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Any chance you might put a word in Dodd’s ear on this?

  • 9 Dan Becker // Mar 2, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    True, no indications as to judge type. But, if you’re presenting an argument expecting to win, does that not signal how you want your judges to think?

    If not, then the issue of their/his current case arguments becomes more serious because it suggests he’s not taking his arguments seriously and by extension the entire issue of our constitution bot your and Glenn argue.

    It’s not like he’s practicing law to get paid thus argue the side you’re paid by so who cares, next case please. He is arguing precedent!

    If he’s not taking this serious enough to believe in what he is arguing and by extension how he expects judges to rule, then he is not the pragmatist we and he believe’s he is.

    Houston, we have a problem. Either way we want to slice this.

  • 10 Matt Browner Hamlin // Mar 2, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Jeffrey – Yes, I think that might be a plausible explanation, though I don’t think it is sufficient for this sort of legal practice by the Department of Justice.

    JT74 – I believe the court hearing this is the 9th Circuit Court.

    Rod P. – I’d say that other than Obama expressly holding the same beliefs as Bush on executive powers, something that would make lie to everything he said on the campaign trail, you’re putting forward the most nefarious explanation. That’s not to say it’s necessarily untrue, only that if true, it gives us the smallest degree of hope for restoring the Constitution during the Obama administration.

    Casual Observer – Dodd’s office has remained active on rule of law questions and I’d hope they are watching what is happening closely. That said, I can only ask, not promise anything.

  • 11 Comrade PhysioProf // Mar 2, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Is it conceivable that this stark position is being taken specifically to ensure that it is struck down in no uncertain terms?

  • 12 Dan Becker // Mar 2, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I have just sent the following letter via the whitehouse contact page as there is no reason to be guessing:
    Dear President Obama,

    I have followed from the beginning the states secretes argument that ex-President Bush has used in all the terrorism cases. Now that you, via your DOJ have used the same arguments along with “executive privilege” language, much concern is building that you have taken to heart and believe in the ex-President Bush’s unitary executive theory. It is leading to questions as to whether you are intentionally continuing in the policies and theories, or are you just to busy with other stuff, or are things so bad that you believe We the People can not handle the truth, and other theories as to your conduct while We try to comprehend the difference in your pre-election dialog on the matter and now your actions. Here are 2 recent posts regarding this issue.
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/03/02/executive_power/index.html
    http://holdfastblog.com/2009/03/02/secrecy-and-executive-power/
    These are not the extent of my understanding of the issues.

    But, let me add another dimension to this issue. In 2005, the World Bank published a study that looked at the sources of wealth. In a developed nation such as ours, 56% of what is and what generates our wealth is the nation’s rule of law. I know you are being briefed on issues of violence related to economic conditions. Rule of law, is 56% of what we have to count on to get us out of this economic mess.

    So, I ask, with all seriousness (and if you read the posts and comments you will understand why): Do you truly believe the arguments (including that you have the right to deny a judge’s ruling) which you have presented in the Al-Haramain and such similar cases?

    I look forward to your answer. Let me thank you now for your time in answering my question.

  • 13 DWPittelli // Mar 2, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    “Bush’s secrecy theories and assertions of unchallengeable executive power” are not, in fact, “threats to liberty” if they are limited to combatants seized overseas or immediately upon arrival in the U.S., the dividing line set by Ex Parte Quirin (1942), a precedent on which the Bush Administration reasonably relied in 2002.

    The Bush assertions may be a bad idea — or illegal — for reasons other than the risk of tyranny, and the Supreme Court may overrule the assertions for these other good reasons, but a U.S. leader cannot impose tyranny if his unchallengeable power is so limited to nonresidents of the U.S.

  • 14 DWPittelli // Mar 2, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Finally, where are you going to find 12 jurors to convict any of these people?

  • 15 Deborah // Mar 2, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    I’d convict them in a minute if they were guilty. For me, the President and his cronies are not Daddy-figures who I look up to as if I were an infant but citizens who have to obey the law like everyone else. When ordinary Americans are subject to mandatory sentencing for drug violations, it hardly seems unthinkable to hold politicians accountable if they broke major laws and treaties that the U.S. signed and tortured people.

  • 16 Tom // Mar 2, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    “President Obama must not only have, but seek out, counsel that prioritizes the rule of law over the preservation and protection of executive branch powers.”

    Now why on earth would anyone do that unless they were coerced?

  • 17 Obama Amazes Hysperia « mirabile dictu // Mar 3, 2009 at 2:57 am

    [...] From Matt Browner Hamlin – The similarities between the Obama administration’s response to the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling [...]

  • 18 » Blog Archive » The Word // Mar 3, 2009 at 8:54 am

    [...] The Word today is not good.  How can Obama be for hope and change when his lawyers plead “state secrets” in court? For those who still suffer illusions, all presidents are conservative. No matter how liberal in appearance, a president will seek to conserve whatever executive powers accrue from his predecessors, no matter how dubious the arguments for those powers. [...]

  • 19 The Heretik // Mar 3, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Blog on, Matt. Blog on.

  • 20 Barringer // Mar 3, 2009 at 10:09 am

    My fear is that Leahy will be successful in creating a truth commission, will offer immunity to those who testify, and the witnesses who testify will still stonewall, obfuscate, and lie.

  • 21 ROY HILL // Mar 3, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Remember, we are living in an era where the constitution only means what a judge says it means.

  • 22 Prairie Daag // Mar 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I don’t think you’re right Roy Hill (21).

    From the memos that were released, it appears we are living in an era where the constitution only means what the executive says it means, and the executive doesn’t have to tell us what it is they think it means. And even if we’re told one thing, they can still do another.

  • 23 Ameri-Karma // Mar 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    But as the headline reads, so is the arrogant typical asshole way of life for the “my shit don’t stink” average American.

    I think it was Pelosi’s lies about impeaching Bush that America simply gave up on ever seeking justice , and itself.

    You refuse to sign treaties to ban weapons of mass destruction that you child killers manufacture ($$$) and your Sunday Christian way of coasting, stealing, hopefully America will suffer by it’s own hand of death and we all get to watch you do it.

  • 24 Nellie the dog // Mar 3, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Get used to it. You voted for the wrong guy. The wrong system. It’s been over for years. Obama was installed to bring the tyranny to fruition. Not reverse or stop it. Obama will be the one who issues the orders of marshall law that are coming and over sees the union with Mexico. And there is nothing you can do about it because you can’t even tell who or what you are “voting” for.

  • 25 robertsgt40 // Mar 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Obama wasn’t “elected” to save the country. He was placed there to do what he’s told. And that’s to capsize the nation(or finish the job)

  • 26 Nellie the dog // Mar 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Thats what the word “installed” references. A puppet. Oligarchy….. We are being finished. They are getting richer and gaining power. Revolution is in the air. Factional fighting will begin soon, and it will be ugly. Obama the “psyop” will be destroyed in the process and replaced by the next stooge.

  • 27 Miguel Grande // Mar 3, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Say hello to the new boss, same as the old boss.

  • 28 escapefromobamastan // Mar 3, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Don’t blame me. I wrote in Ron Paul.

  • 29 Brian // Mar 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

    It always makes me laugh when people expect the “new” guy to make the changes that are needed in order to fix the mess the “old” guy made.

    This will NEVER happen. Ever.

    Private organizations OWN your government and they own pretty much all governments. They use these government jobs to push forward private agendas, none of which are in OUR best interests.

    In order to make any changes, you MUST ban members of these private organizations from ever holding any type of government job. Period. CFR, Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergers, Masons, Skull & Bones, Scroll & Key, Phi Beta Kappa, Mormons, JW’s, Lucifarians, Satanists, Bohemian Grovers etc. etc. etc……..all must go.

    If you don’t do that, nothing will ever change.

    Expecting a new result by repeatedly doing the same thing is the definition of insanity.

  • 30 Bill Waggoner // Mar 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Nothing is new under the Sun, and people who live in Glass houses should not throw stones. We now are faced with less integrity, fewer morals, no ethics, and more scheming in high gov places today than ever. Sorry…but that’s about it, with one exception [ The United States of America, with all of it's people, is still the best country in the world to be a part of]. BW