As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Make It Stop

I'm getting a little tired of seeing headlines with "sticks with the Bush position" in them.

The Obama administration on Friday told a federal judge it would not deviate from the Bush administration's position that detainees held at a U.S. air base in Afghanistan have no right to sue in U.S. courts.

In one of his first acts in office, President Barack Obama ordered the closure within one year of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, which has been widely criticized by rights groups and foreign governments. About 245 people are currently held at Guantanamo, according to the Pentagon.

However, Obama has not yet decided what to do about the makeshift prison at the U.S. military base in Bagram, where the U.S. government is holding more than 600 prisoners, or whether to continue work on a $60 million prison complex there.
In late January, Obama directed a task force to study the government's overall detainee policy and report back to him in six months.

But the new administration faced a February 20 deadline to tell U.S. District Court Judge John Bates whether it would "refine" the Bush administration's position on four men being held at Bagram who have filed suit against their detention.

In a brief filing with the court on Friday, the Justice Department said it would stick to the previous government's position, which argued the four men -- who have been detained at Bagram for over six years -- had no right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court.

There is little to recommend here. In a substantive sense, Bagram and Guantanamo are hardly different. Many of the detainees have been in both camps. There are just as many stories of human rights abuses at Bagram (including the homicide of Dilawar, the taxi driver whose experience is chronicled in last year's Oscar-winning documentary Taxi To The Dark Side). To separate the two at all is really dastardly. Just because Gitmo is more well-known doesn't make the sins of Bagram acceptable.

And here's another example of the Obama Administration adopting a Bush-era stance on an issue of executive power:

Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush's eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama's Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration's bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

Recently, the Bush White House said it had located 14 million e-mails that were misplaced and that the White House had restored hundreds of thousands of other e-mails from computer backup tapes.

"The new administration seems no more eager than the last" to deal with the issue, said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the other group that sued the EOP.

The Executive Office of the President includes the president's immediate staff and many White House offices and agencies.

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, noted that President Barack Obama on his first full day in office called for greater transparency in government.

The Justice Department "apparently never got the message" from Obama, Blanton said.

I'm sure that some of this is because the Administration doesn't want to get ahead of itself and make the determinations on these cases on their terms, and there are also zombie lawyers arguing these cases, holdovers from the Bush Administration, and we are very early in the new people getting to the job and asserting their will. But we have the previous regime committing very serious crimes and the new team not wanting to deal with them, frankly, so they're trying to dismiss lawsuits or keep practices in place to bury the evidence. It doesn't work that way, however. Eventually, the truth comes out, and by implicating themselves deeper into this mess, they cannot claim to be turning the page on anything or deserving of a new level of respect around the world or at home.

There's another opportunity on this coming Wednesday. A federal judge is setting that deadline for the Administration to weigh in on the subpoenas of Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in the US Attorneys scandal. Will they back George Bush's claim of executive privilege covering these two aides and preventing them from testimony before Congress, or will they reject it? There are implications for Karl Rove's testimony as well. The new White House counsel is urging Rove's lawyers to work out a deal with Congress, probably so he doesn't have to weigh in himself. This could be good or bad, and since the White House's motion for continuance was denied, we'll know more by Wednesday. I'm tired of being disappointed on these issues.

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