President Barack Obama has finally received praise for his terror policies . . . from Bush officials. Two of the officials commonly named as responsible for allegedly criminal acts during the Bush Administration, former National Intelligence Director retired Vice Admiral Michael McConnel and former Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden, are heaping praise on Obama for going even farther than George Bush in his policies. Now, there is an ignoble accomplishment.
McConnell is positively gushing with praise that “the new administration has been as aggressive, if not more aggressive, in pursing these issues . . . ” Hayden, who is most often cited for the unlawful surveillance programs under Bush, stated “I thank god every day for the continuity” shown by Obama in continuing Bush’s approach to the law and terror.
Hayden, who is my neighbor in Virginia, has also opposed any prosecution for torture under the Bush Administration. Obama has pleased many in the Bush Administration by insisting that CIA personnel will never face prosecution for torture — despite our treaty obligations to investigate and prosecute such crimes.
President Obama has certainly earned these professional references. He blocked public interest lawsuits in federal court on the unlawful surveillance program while blocking any investigation into torture. Hayden was the direct beneficiary of these policies. It is like Bernie Madoff praising the enforcement policies of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that allowed him to thrive in the 1990s. When many of us were stating that Hayden’s surveillance programs were clearly unlawful, Hayden was insisting that his own lawyers at the NSA had reviewed the program and were satisfied that it was lawful. This was the same tactic used by Bush in selecting biased lawyers to give clearly unsound legal analysis to support unlawful programs. Ultimately, when Hayden’s program was brought into federal court and faced actual judicial review, Hayden opposed such independent and competent review — and Obama ultimately stopped it.
I accept that people of good faith can disagree with civil libertarians on some of these programs — though even the Bush Administration came to reject the legal analysis of the torture programs. However, Hayden and Obama did not want to risk federal courts resolving this matter on issues like surveillance. Instead, they just circumvented the legal system. The pat on the back for a job well done by Hayden and McConnell should give someone in his Administration a moment of pause . . but I doubt it.