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Glenn Greenwald: Obama Has Maintained Indefinite Detention, State Secrets Powers [VIDEO]

8:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The Socialism Conference was held in Chicago, IL, over the weekend. On Saturday, July 3, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald delivered a speech on civil liberties in the age of President Obama.

I attended the conference and recorded Greenwald’s speech. Part 1 of the speech has already been posted. Now, here’s Part 2.

Up front, Greenwald makes clear the critique of Obama should not be that he has been “slow to reverse” Bush policies. Rather, the critique should be that he ”has affirmatively embraced them as his own and in many cases extended far beyond where George Bush and Dick Cheney ever dreamed of taking them” (and, if you saw Part 1, you understand this is now bipartisan consensus in American politics).

Indefinite detention is the first area he outlines. He describes how ”the heart and soul of the controversy over Guantanamo, over Abu Ghraib, over the universal worldwide system of detention,” the notion of putting a person in cage for life without any shred of due process, has been maintained.

A key salient point:

…If you talk to Democratic partisans and apologists of the president, what they will say is that the reason that he hasn’t close Guantanamo is not his fault. The reason is that Congress passed a law or a series of laws impeding his doing so. And that’s not necessarily untrue. Congress did pass a series of laws barring the closing of Guantanamo, in effect. But, before that ever happened, the president’s plan for a “closing of Guantanamo” was not really to close Guantanamo at all. It was simply to move it a few thousand miles north to Illinois, where the aspects that made it so controversial—namely imprisoning people for life without due process—was going to be fully preserved and maintained.

Now, the controversy as I understood it during the Bush presidency about Guantanamo was not, “Isn’t it so outrageous that George Bush and Dick Cheney are imprisoning people without due process on an island in the Caribbean rather than doing it in Illinois?” …

Recently, in May, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA) introduced legislation to “embed in law the principle of indefinite detention without trial for suspected terrorists.” This was a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gave the president the authority to wage war anytime, anywhere and without congressional authorization (a power that Congress doesn’t need to grant the Executive Branch because it has already claimed the right to engage in worldwide war without the consent of the American people, effectively rendering Congress an administrative and mostly impotent body when it comes to checking the consolidation of power in the Executive Branch).

Greenwald also outlines how habeas corpus rights have been argued against by the Obama Administration:

…Despite the horrendous record of not just imprisoning people without due process but imprisoning obviously innocent people without due process, the Obama Administration took the position that this right the Supreme Court recognized applies only to people in Guantanamo but not anywhere else that the US imprisons people, such as at Bagram, Afghanistan or in places in Yemen or any other places where the US maintains prisons…

By winning this argument in the Supreme Court, President Obama can simply direct agencies and formulate policy that circumvents Guantanamo and instead just use prisons America has in other countries, for example, “black sites.” Or, the US can just use navy ships to indefinitely detain people (and maybe in some cases bring them to trial).

Finally, Greenwald illuminates how Obama has gone along with a Bush policy on state secrets that Bush significantly altered in such a way that his administration was able to guard against judicial review if they were suspected of breaking the law.

[The state secrets doctrine] said that, in certain cases involving national security and certain judicial cases, some documents may be so secretive that, even though they’re relevant to the litigation, even though they’re relevant to the case, even though in all other instances they would be allowed to be used, some documents are so sensitive and risk triggering the disclosure of important state secrets that they can’t be used in the case, even if they’re relevant. And what the Bush presidency did was it converted this doctrine from a document-specific privilege, that said certain documents couldn’t be used, and they developed a new theory that said certain topics are so secretive that they cannot be the subject of litigation, even when the president is accused of breaking the law. And that was basically the tool the Bush presidency used to shield itself from any judicial review for its actions, even the most illegal ones.

Obama has used the state secrets doctrine to guard against investigations into torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, etc.

As University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone, someone who has spoken publicly about going after WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act, points out in and editorial published on June 26 titled, “Our Untransparent President“:

…The dawn of the Obama administration brought hope that Congress would enact the proposed State Secrets Protection Act of 2009, which would have limited the scope of the doctrine. Indeed, shortly after President Obama took office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. suggested that the doctrine should be invoked “only when genuine and significant harm to national defense or foreign relations is at stake and only to the extent necessary to safeguard those interests.”

Since then, however, the Obama administration has aggressively asserted the privilege in litigation involving such issues as the C.I.A.’s use of extraordinary rendition and the National Security Agency’s practice of wiretapping American citizens…

*Check back soon for more video of Glenn Greenwald’s speech.

Glenn Greenwald: Bush/Cheney Approach to Civil Liberties Has Been Continued & Embraced by Obama [VIDEO]

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The Socialism Conference was held in Chicago, IL, over the weekend. On Saturday, July 3, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald delivered a speech on civil liberties in the age of President Obama.

I attended the conference and recorded Greenwald’s speech. Throughout the next couple of days, I will be posting video of his speech and, eventually, a full transcript of it will be made available.

In this first part, Greenwald discusses how it has become conventional wisdom that Obama has continued many of the Bush Administration policies, which were once regarded as policies that shredded the Constitution, but now in Democratic circles it is considered to be “Democratic consensus.”

He describes how one year ago it was “controversial” and “provocative” to utter observations that President Obama had virtually continued “the entirety of the Bush/Cheney approach to the war on civil liberties and terrorism.” It was something people found “repellent.” But, now, it has become “so obvious” and “self-evidently true.”

That it has become so blatantly obvious means one no longer has to spend time proving the existence of continuity between the two administrations, Greenwald argues.

One of Greenwald’s most salient points is made as he highlights how the Bush-following American right has had to acknowledge Bush policies have continued under Obama and thus admit he has been strong and courageous on national security.

“The reason why I find it interesting that even the right wing is willing to acknowledge these policies have continued under the Obama presidency is for decades the Republicans have gained really potently on a political level from accusing Democrats of being weak on national security or soft on terrorism in the age of terror,” Greenwald suggests.

He adds:

Now, weak on national security in American political parlance doesn’t mean that somebody shies away from acts of strength and courage. And similarly, strength and national courage doesn’t mean that one acts strongly or engages in acts of courage. It means the opposite. What strength and national security means is a willingness to send other people’s children off to war to risk their lives to kill large numbers of civilians in foreign countries.

Greenwald cites Jack Goldsmith, former National Security Agency head under former President George W. Bush, Michael Hayden, and former Vice President Dick Cheney as proof that one of Obama’s greatest achievements among the political and ruling elite in America is that he has made what was once controversial, and seen as right wing radicalism, part of a bipartisan political consensus. And, by making this part of a consensus, Greenwald argues, debate is effectively ended; the policies are no longer objectionable to the political class in Washington.

Finally, Greenwald notes liberal professors and leaders of liberal groups like the ACLU have noted the continuity and expressed their disgust and outrage at the fact that the assault on civil liberties has continued and in some cases escalated under President Obama.

Discussion of civil liberties and the Obama administration’s assault has been largely absent from conversations. At liberal conferences, discussion has been pushed to the margins.

Netroots Nation had one panel, “What the Government Wants to Know About You,” that looked at some of the policies expanding under Obama. There was little talk about Guantanamo and lack of accountability for torture. Liberal organizers focused on the right wing attack on the middle class, avoiding outright condemnation of the bipartisan support that President Obama has created on national security (although Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos did ask White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer why Guantanamo hasn’t been closed).

In October, the liberal Campaign for America’s Future that holds a “Take Back America” conference each year is rebranding their conference, “Take Back the American Dream.” Led by Van Jones, there will likely be minimal conversation on civil liberties or national security policy, as the focus will involve a much more politically safe discussion on jobs and unemployment.

A key difference between those who attend Netroots and “Take Back America” conferences and those who attend Socialism conferences is the fact that those in attendance seldom consist of people with radical views, which in American history have been openly condemned and in many cases left people with those views open to government smearing and prosecution. Those with socialist views understand what many liberals take for granted, why civil liberties must be protected.

How can one fight a right wing assault on what Democratic Party operatives term the middle class if one’s civil liberties or rights under the constitution have been entirely stripped away or rendered meaningless, especially in cases when one is challenging power?

There’s a Twitter town hall tomorrow at 2 pm ET. This is an opportunity to undermine liberal organization leaderships’ efforts to make nice with the Obama Administration and overlook the Administration’s ever-expanding assault on civil liberties by doubling down on Bush Administration “war on terror” policies.

Purify the Tweet stream for #AskObama with lots of questions and remarks on the continuity between the Bush and Obama Administrations.

*Go here for Part 2 of Glenn Greenwald’s speech.