Credit Where Credit Is Due

Taking time out from his relentless crusade to destroy capitalism, the U.S. economy, and America as we used to know it, Obama finally got one right today.

Obama Seeks to Block Release of Detainee Abuse Photos

President Barack Obama reversed course and is seeking to block release of photographs that show the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. personnel.

“This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action,” Obama said today at the White House. “Publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.”

Instead, it might “inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in greater danger,” he said.

A federal appeals court ordered the release in connection with a Freedom of Information Act suit. Last month, the Justice Department told a federal judge that the administration would not resist a court order to turn over 44 photographs sought by the American Civil Liberties Union in the suit.

The president told his legal team last week that he “did not feel comfortable with release of the photos,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said earlier.

Gibbs said that Obama concluded that Justice lawyers, during former President George W. Bush’s administration, didn’t make the strongest case against release of the pictures.

“The argument that the president seeks to make is one that hasn’t been made before,” Gibbs said. “I’m not going to get into blame for this or that,” he said, adding that the case was working through the court system before Obama took office.

Evidence

During the Bush administration, release of photographs of prisoner abuse by U.S. troops at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq caused an international uproar. The pictures at issue are part of potential evidence in cases that have been wrapped up since 2004, Gibbs said.

Obama said releasing the pictures may have a “chilling effect” on future investigations.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he recommended to Obama that the photos be withheld and that both General Ray Odierno, who commands U.S. forces in Iraq, and General David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, objected to the release.

“Our commanders have expressed very serious reservations and their very great worry that release of these photographs would cost American lives,” Gates said when asked about the issue at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Durbin, Lieberman Comment

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, one of Obama’s closest allies in Congress, said the legal brief in the court cases initially “led him to believe” that releasing the photographs was “inevitable.”

“Now they seem to have some reservations about what the impact of those photos might have, particularly on the security of troops,” Durbin said.

Senators Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, supported Obama’s decision.

“It’s good for the troops to know that their commander-in- chief is going to bat for them and that is what he did today,” Graham said at the Capitol.

Lieberman said releasing the photos would have done more harm than good. When the Abu Ghraib photos were first released, “they were immediately put up on jihadist Web sites across the world and were used by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to recruit,” he said.

See also:
Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos
In reversal, Obama seeks to block abuse photos
Obama reverses course on alleged prison abuse photos
Obama sets up abuse-photos fight
Obama Moves to Block Release of Detainee Abuse Photos
Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos

Of course Obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming into changing his mind under intense pressure from his military commanders or else he he would have made this no-brainier decision in the first place. I mean, it’s obvious to any moron that doesn’t absolutely despise the U.S. military that releasing these photographs would do nothing besides incited and inflame our enemies, hand them a huge propaganda victory that they would exploit as a recruiting tool for years to come, and generally put U.S. troops worldwide in much greater danger.

/but hey, small victories, credit where credit is do, it was the correct decision, let’s just hope he follows through with opposing the release of the photographs in court

Be Careful What You Wish For

So, does Eric Holder want to open this can of worms? Is giving a legal opinion now a criminal offense? Really?

Holder: Justice Department Will ‘Follow the Law’ in Probing Interrogation Tactics

The Justice Department will “follow the law” in investigating the Bush administration officials who cleared harsh interrogation techniques, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.

Holder reiterated his position a day after President Obama opened the door for potential prosecution against the lawyers who drafted memos that justified harsh interrogation tactics.

Obama has said the CIA operatives who employed those tactics using the legal guidance provided will be safe from criminal charges, but offered no such assurances to Bush administration lawyers.

“We’re going to follow the evidence wherever it takes us. We’re going to follow the law wherever that takes us,” Holder told reporters.

“No one is above the law,” Holder said.

Critics have said trying to prosecute lawyers for offering legal advice is a slippery slope toward criminalizing opinions.

“Will Democrats also investigate the members of Congress who were briefed on interrogation tactics in 2002 and raised no objection? If the lawyers are threatened with an investigation, why not the politicians who approved their actions?” asked Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

What about Congress?

Congress Debates Fresh Investigation Of Interrogations

Obama had hoped to put the whole matter behind him, first by banning those interrogation methods early in his presidency and then by releasing the memos last week with the proviso that no CIA official who carried out interrogations should be prosecuted.

Instead, the latest decision has stirred controversy on the right and the left. Obama has drawn sharp criticism from former vice president Richard B. Cheney, former CIA directors and Republican elected officials for releasing the memos. Those critics see softness in the commander in chief. He faces equally strong reaction from the left, where there is a desire to punish Bush administration officials for their actions and to conduct a more thorough investigation of what happened.

The controversy moved to Capitol Hill yesterday as lawmakers debated the wisdom of launching a fresh investigation into the Bush-era practices. Several top Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), withheld judgment, noting that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has begun an inquiry.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, endorsed the idea and said witnesses should not be immune from prosecution.

Even Speaker Pelosi is on the bandwagon.

Pelosi backs anti-terror ‘truth commission’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed today the establishment of a formal “truth commission” to investigate Bush administration anti-terrorism policies, including an examination of former top Justice Department lawyers who crafted the legal justifications for what critics say was torture.

Such a probe could target UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Bush Justice Department who was instrumental in crafting the interrogation memoranda, and his former boss, Jay Bybee, now a judge on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Pelosi’s endorsement follows President Obama’s signal Tuesday that he was open to the idea. Obama’s shift, in tandem with last week’s release by the administration of past memos describing brutal interrogation techniques on terror suspects, has touched a match to the seething controversy over whether there should be a public or legal accounting for Bush administration policies on torture and detention.

But wait Nancy, didn’t you approve of these interrogation techniques, are you going to investigate yourself?

Top legislators knew of interrogations

The CIA briefed top Democrats and Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees on enhanced interrogation techniques more than 30 times, according to intelligence sources, who said those members tacitly approved the techniques which some Democrats in Congress now say should land Bush administration officials in prison.

Between 2002 and 2006, the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees “each got complete, benchmark briefings on the program,” said one of the intelligence sources who is familiar with the briefings.

“If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the closed-door briefings.

Those who were briefed included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Rep. Jane Harman of California, all Democrats, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, all Republicans.

See also:
Holding Pelosi Accountable For Torture
Opinion: Nancy Pelosi encouraged CIA water boarding

Oops! Hey Obama, still think opening this Pandora’s box was a good idea? If this gets any real traction, it will surely scuttle your presidency and you’ll never be reelected. Emotions are that strong on this issue.

Presidential Poison

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama’s victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

If this analogy seems excessive, consider how Mr. Obama has framed the issue. He has absolved CIA operatives of any legal jeopardy, no doubt because his intelligence advisers told him how damaging that would be to CIA morale when Mr. Obama needs the agency to protect the country. But he has pointedly invited investigations against Republican legal advisers who offered their best advice at the request of CIA officials.

“Your intelligence indicates that there is currently a level of ‘chatter’ equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, in his August 1, 2002 memo. “In light of the information you believe [detainee Abu] Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an ‘increased pressure phase.'”

So the CIA requests a legal review at a moment of heightened danger, the Justice Department obliges with an exceedingly detailed analysis of the law and interrogation practices — and, seven years later, Mr. Obama says only the legal advisers who are no longer in government should be investigated. The political convenience of this distinction for Mr. Obama betrays its basic injustice. And by the way, everyone agrees that senior officials, including President Bush, approved these interrogations. Is this President going to put his predecessor in the dock too?

Mr. Obama seemed to understand the peril of such an exercise when he said, before his inauguration, that he wanted to “look forward” and beyond the antiterror debates of the Bush years. As recently as Sunday, Rahm Emanuel said no prosecutions were contemplated and now is not a time for “anger and retribution.” Two days later the President disavowed his own chief of staff. Yet nothing had changed except that Mr. Obama’s decision last week to release the interrogation memos unleashed a revenge lust on the political left that he refuses to resist.

Just as with the AIG bonuses, he is trying to co-opt his left-wing base by playing to it — only to encourage it more. Within hours of Mr. Obama’s Tuesday comments, Senator Carl Levin piled on with his own accusatory Intelligence Committee report. The demands for a “special counsel” at Justice and a Congressional show trial are louder than ever, and both Europe’s left and the U.N. are signaling their desire to file their own charges against former U.S. officials.

Those officials won’t be the only ones who suffer if all of this goes forward. Congress will face questions about what the Members knew and when, especially Nancy Pelosi when she was on the House Intelligence Committee in 2002. The Speaker now says she remembers hearing about waterboarding, though not that it would actually be used. Does anyone believe that? Porter Goss, her GOP counterpart at the time, says he knew exactly what he was hearing and that, if anything, Ms. Pelosi worried the CIA wasn’t doing enough to stop another attack. By all means, put her under oath.

Mr. Obama may think he can soar above all of this, but he’ll soon learn otherwise. The Beltway’s political energy will focus more on the spectacle of revenge, and less on his agenda. The CIA will have its reputation smeared, and its agents second-guessing themselves. And if there is another terror attack against Americans, Mr. Obama will have set himself up for the argument that his campaign against the Bush policies is partly to blame.

Above all, the exercise will only embitter Republicans, including the moderates and national-security hawks Mr. Obama may need in the next four years. As patriotic officials who acted in good faith are indicted, smeared, impeached from judgeships or stripped of their academic tenure, the partisan anger and backlash will grow. And speaking of which, when will the GOP Members of Congress begin to denounce this partisan scapegoating? Senior Republicans like Mitch McConnell, Richard Lugar, John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts and have hardly been profiles in courage.

Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, due in part to his personal charm and his seeming goodwill. By indulging his party’s desire to criminalize policy advice, he has unleashed furies that will haunt his Presidency.

See also:
Obama’s torture memo two-step
Obama pressed to back torture investigation
Torture Cases Would Face Legal Hurdles
Prosecuting Heroes

And hey, what about our extraordinary rendition programs? You know, where we send bad people to countries like Egypt to undergo real torture. Are we going to investigate that too?

/wasn’t Bill Clinton the one who first authorized extraordinary rendition, are we going to persecute the Clinton administration too, as long as we’re at it?