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Obama's Big Gamble

By       Message WILLIAM FISHER       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   7 comments

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Do you remember how thrilled we were when we heard our new President say:

"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government."

In addition to being thankful to finally have a president who seemed thoughtful, and who spoke English in whole and understandable sentences, his words meant Bush's Era of Secret Government was over

Gone was the bumbling Bush rhetoric that made us the butt of the world's jokes. Gone was the swagger of 'bring it on.' Gone was the "you're either with us or you're against us" Crusader's mantra.

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It was, again, morning in America!

And the president gave us more than just words. He gave us proof that he was really serious. He ordered Guantanamo shuttered within a year. He closed the CIA's secret black sites. He ordered a case-by-case review of every outstanding Guantanano case to determine what to do with each of the prisoners there.

He said, "The United States doesn't torture." And, unlike his predecessor, he sounded credible.

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Regarding the Freedom of Information Act, he shifted the presumption of compliance from those seeking information to the government that had - and had frequently over-classified - that information. He gave his first foreign interview to an Arab television network. And he vowed to stop using the term "enemy combatant" - and moved the last of two such designees from a Navy brig to the civilian justice system for trial.

And he did almost all of that before the end of his first week in office.

Those were heady days. His supporters were jubilant. 

But, you guessed it, there's a BUT coming.

The but is that the part of Obama's base that believes fervently in human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of Constitutional law, now finds itself disappointed, confused, bewildered.

The reason is that our new president's lawyers have been traipsing into court, not to begin reasserting the primacy of the Constitution, not to start reestablishing the rule of law, but to argue the very same legal positions used by George W. Bush in his push for the Imperial Presidency.

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Obama's Justice Department has argued that non-Afghan prisoners captured outside Afghanistan and imprisoned at Bagram Air Force Base - some for years without charges -- have no Constitutional rights (the Court ruled they did).

DOJ lawyers went to court to argue that a lawsuit brought by five victims of "extraordinary rendition" should be thrown out because presenting the evidence in open court would jeopardize national security. The same "state secrets" gambit habitually invoked by the Bushies.

Then, attorneys for the Obama administration moved to dismiss a challenge to the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program. They said, "The information implicated by this case, which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,"

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)
 

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