President BarackN Obama, the world’s newest Nobel peace laureate, is again expanding on the policies of former President George Bush and fighting to conceal evidence of U.S. torture and abuse. As did the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration is seeking to change the law after courts rejected its absurd argument that the President can withhold photos of detainee abuse simply because they are embarrassing to the United States. Democrats in Congress are assisting in the effort to try to stop the Supreme Court from considering the issue by preempting the litigation.
This is the problem of nominating someone for the Nobel prize less than two weeks after entering office, here. Obama has thus far worked as a barrier rather than a catalyst for international law and values in the areas of torture and abuse. His position in the case of ACLU v. Department of Defense is reprehensible and exceeds the arguments made by Bush. He is claiming that he can deny the media and the public such pictures simply because he views them as controversial and likely to cause anger from Muslims. It is an exception that would swallow the rule.
As some of stated at the time, this argument is legally meritless and that is precisely what the courts have concluded. Now, however, Obama has taken another lesson from Bush. Unable to win on the merits, he has called on Congress to simply change the rules before the Supreme Court can vote. Democrats have joined the effort and are now close to passing legislation to remove the courts from the controversy. This is what Obama supportedW on the telecom litigation, where courts had rejected arguments of executive authority and Congress stepped in to extinguish dozens of public interest lawsuits.
The position of President Obama in the case is disgraceful. Solicitor General Elena Kagan has admitted that the pictures show such things as “soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees.” In another, “a soldier holds a broom as if ‘sticking its end into the rectum of a restrained detainee.'” Kagan has taken the extraordinary step of asking the Court to delay considering the case to allow Congress to kill the litigation through legislation. As a result, no court would be allowed to rule on the release of the 87 photographs and authority would be transferred to the Defense Department.
Had Bush done such a thing (giving the Pentagon control) Democrats would have been in the streets. However, Democratic leaders are supporting the effort, the media is largely silent, and the Democratic base is passive. The move contradicts Obama’s pledge of transparency in government. It contradicts his pledge to make a full account of abuses. It makes of mockery of his award of the Nobel for encouraging international “dialogue”. It appears that that dialogue must still occur on the terms set by the United States and specifically avoids evidence that would embarrass the United States or show clearly how it has violated international law.
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