Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, June 30, 2011 8:10 pm

Because if you don’t stop it, the next time it will be even worse


During the Bush era, I raised hell here about violations of law and the Constitution by the administration, for which I had my intelligence, sanity, patriotism and sexual proclivities questioned. On the good days.

And I did it for a reason: History suggests that if violations of the law by government are not punished severely, those violations will not only continue but worsen. And American history suggests that party affiliation is no guarantor of government legality.

We’ve watched that pattern play out again during the Obama administration. Although Obama campaigned (to some extent) against the criminal violations of the Bush national-security state, he’s continuing some of those same practices now that he is the one with the power. I warned of this behavior early in his tenure, and I’ve long since reached my breaking point. But the pattern is worsening, as Fecund Stench notes in this brief but telling roundup:

From Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic:

In Barack Obama’s rise to national prominence, when he criticized the Bush Administration for its false claims about WMDs in Iraq, its torture of detainees, and its illegal program of spying on American citizens without warrants, he owed a particular debt of gratitude to a New York Times national security reporter. In a series of scoops as impressive as any amassed during the War on Terrorism, James Risen reported in 2004 that the CIA failed to tell President Bush about relatives of Iraqi scientists who swore that the country had abandoned its weapons program; the same year, he was first to reveal that the CIA was waterboarding detainees in Iraq; and in 2005, he broke the Pulitzer Prize winning story about the secret NSA spying program.

These scoops so embarrassed and angered the Bush Administration that some of its senior members wanted Risen to end up in jail. They never managed to make that happen. But President Obama might. He once found obvious value in Risen’s investigative journalism. Its work that would’ve been impossible to produce without confidential sources and an ability to credibly promise that he’d never reveal their identities. But no matter. The Obama Administration is now demanding that Risen reveal his source for a 2006 scoop about CIA missteps in Iran. If he refuses to cooperate, which is his plan, he faces the possibility of jail time.

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon, last week:

The subpoena to Risen was originally issued but then abandoned by the Bush administration, and then revitalized by Obama lawyers. It is part of the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent whom the DOJ accuses of leaking to Risen the story of a severely botched agency plot — from 11 years ago — to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program, a story Risen wrote about six years after the fact in his 2006 best-selling book, State of War. The DOJ wants to force Risen to testify under oath about whether Sterling was his source…

What’s particularly striking about this prosecution is that it involves digging deep into the ancient past (the Iran operation in question was begun under the Clinton administration): this from a President who insisted that Bush officials not be investigated for their crimes on the ground that we must “Look Forward, Not Backward.” But it’s not hard to see why Obama officials are so intent on doing so: few things are more effective in creating a Climate of Fear — one that deters investigation and disclosure and stifles the exercise of basic rights — than prosecuting prominent people for having challenged and undermined the government’s agenda. As Risen documents, that — plainly — is what this prosecution and the Obama administration’s broader anti-whistleblower war is about: chilling the exercise of basic rights and the ability to challenge government actions.

From David K. Shipler at the NYT, last week:

THIS spring was a rough season for the Fourth Amendment. The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to allow GPS tracking of vehicles without judicial permission. The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed. Then it refused to see a Fourth Amendment violation where a citizen was jailed for 16 days on the false pretext that he was being held as a material witness to a crime.

I’ll be honest: I’m scared. Once these freedoms go, they’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to get back. Once the precedents have been established that criminal violations of the law and violations of the Constitution by our government will go not just unpunished but, if possible, unrecorded, we have entered a long, dark tunnel at the end of which no light is visible.

If you’re content to live in Guatemala with a bigger economy, fine. I’ve always hoped for better.

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks. I felt a bit guilty covering this after all the wonderful work you’ve done, but I know you’re busy these days. I especially enjoyed Greenwald’s nearly unhinged rant, and of course, you’re cryptically sarcastic comment.

    Comment by Fec — Thursday, June 30, 2011 8:24 pm @ 8:24 pm | Reply


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