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Pro Forma… Ad Absurdum

September 27, 2010

As a matter of form… to absurdity.

The Obama administration is making quite a name for itself by defending the indefensible. Appealing lower court’s rulings against DADTdomestic spying, and extraordinary rendition programs, after coming into office with a mandate to change these specific policies of the former administration, isn’t any way to garner support for this midterm. It seems that this administration hasn’t found a reprehensible abuse of civil rights that they wouldn’t defend. And to use the “state secrets” claim to have some of these cases thrown out is particularly egregious given that the previous administration was roundly criticized by many in this administration for the same over-reach.

Don’t worry though, it’s all just pro forma, right? You know, DOJ has to do their job and defend these programs vigorously or they’ll open the floodgates for more lawsuits. That’s the argument at least.

I don’t buy it and neither do any other progressives. Choosing to defend these policies, and it is a choice, is despicable to say the least. Campaigning as a reformer and then relentlessly defending the status quo once elected seems a bit, you know, like lying.  Big surprise, right?  Not really.  The number one motivation for every president since Eisenhower (and many before him) is to hold on to or expand executive power.  Especially when it comes to “national security”.  The Obama DOJ has made some of the most incredible claims of executive power ever submitted to our courts.

In yet another state secrets claim, the DOJ is seeking to kill a lawsuit brought by the father of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.  You know, the radical cleric targeted for extrajudicial murder by the CIA.  Well evidently his family, along with the ACLU and the CCR think that’s kind of… un-American.  The DOJ insists that the courts have no right to review the standards and procedures used for targeting U.S. citizens for extrajudicial execution overseas.

The lawsuit would necessarily and improperly inject the courts into decisions of the president and his advisers about how to protect the American people from the threat of armed attacks, including imminent threats, posed by a foreign organization against which the political branches have authorized the use of necessary and appropriate force, said the Justice Department filing.

The evidence of said imminent threat being a state secret of course, can never be disclosed.

“The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy,” the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement. “In matters of life and death, no executive should have a blank check.”

This is all about accountability.  No one in Washington wants to be held accountable for the crimes committed over the last ten years.  That’s why the Obama administration, and whoever follows it, will continue to file “pro forma” appeals, ad absurdum.  If they choose to do what is right, and what they promised to do, some very powerful people could be left holding the bag, and accountability is something we just don’t do here.

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