Thursday, September 24, 2009

New "State Secrets" Policy? More Lipstick on the National Security Pig

The New York Times reports:
The Justice Department is preparing to impose new limits on the government assertion of the state secrets privilege used to block lawsuits for national security reasons. The practice was a major flashpoint in the debate over the escalation of executive power and secrecy during the Bush administration.
But the Obama administration believes it's enough now that any claim of "state secrets" privilege by the executive branch be reviewed now by the Attorney General. The ACLU notes with some derision that "on paper" there is some purported progress, while Marcy Wheeler at FDL reports that Center for Constitutional Rights is calling the proposed policy "smoke and mirrors." Ben Wizner at the ACLU had more to say (emphasis added):
In recent years, we have seen the executive branch engage in grave human rights violations, declare those activities 'state secrets,' and thus avoid any judicial oversight or accountability. It is critical that the courts play a meaningful role in deciding whether victims of human rights abuse will have an opportunity to seek justice. Real reform of the state secrets privilege must affirm the power of the courts to reject false claims of 'national security.
Writing also at FDL, bmaz sees the timing of the "new" policy as related to government attempts to bury the evidence of government misdeeds in the wiretapping al-Haramain case:
The al-Haramain case is a perfect storm of problems for the government, there is warrantless wiretapping, the surveillance invaded an attorney-client relationship, there is known proof in the form of the sealed surveillance log under the protective custody of the court, and at least some of the surveillance is known to have occurred during the period after the infamous "John Ashcroft hospital scene"....

Tack in the distinct possibility that the government made material misrepresentations about their data mining and warrantless surveillance to the FISA Court and that illegally information thusly obtained inappropriately made its way into the affidavit for the search warrant executed on the al-Haramain Foundation in Oregon, and you see the veritable cornucopia of problems the government could be so determined to stop inquiry into in the al-Haramain litigation before Judge Walker....

There is a lot the government has to hide in al-Haramain, and they are desperate to do just that. It would be a perfect time to whip out a ruse in the form of a "new state secrets policy". Even if there is nothing at all new about it.
The spanking new proposed policy only raised spitting disgust from civil liberties legal blogger Glenn Greenwald:
...the so-called "new state secrets policy" which the Obama DOJ is set to unveil is such a self-evident farce -- such an obvious replica of all the abuses that characterized the Bush/Cheney use of that privilege which Obama himself has spent the last eight months embracing -- that I couldn't even bring myself to write about it. It would not have altered a single one of the controversial uses and is a complete non-sequitur to the objections raised to its abuses (including, once upon a time, by Obama himself).
For those who haven't gotten the picture yet, let me draw it as simply as possible: when it come to defending U.S. military and national security interests, there's not a cent's worth of difference between the Bush/Cheney and Obama/Biden administrations. Those waiting for the confirmation of Dawn Johnson to change things might as well be waiting for the Second Coming (or the Messiah, if you're Jewish).

And as an aside -- and switching topic somewhat -- those waiting for the Congressional bill to slap down Acorn as somehow being used in some sort of progressive jujitsu to bring down the entire military-industrial complex (see the Greenwald link above), let's not waste our time with such utopian fantasies. Some poor naive activists might believe it, and only demoralization results from pursuing such pipe dreams. The MIC will not be brought down by a trick.

Meanwhile, for readers pursuing other items of interest, this appears promising:
In an interview with former CIA officer Phillip Giraldi, FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds named Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle as having been wiretapped and recorded discussing plans with the Turkish ambassador in the Summer of 2001 to invade Iraq and occupy the Kurdish region bordering Turkey.

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