President Obama begins his transition period to a second term by receiving some adorable but thoughtless advice from the New York Times editorial board: “Close Guantanamo Prison,” the editors declare. The advice is adorable because it seems frozen in time four years ago, when it was slightly conceivable that Obama would do anything other than concretize and expand executive power and privilege he railed against when it was in the hands of his predecessor. It is thoughtless because Obama doesn’t need Gitmo: rather than send prisoners to Gitmo, where they receive three squares a day (and reportedly get to keep pets), he is sending them to a Somali hell on earth, where skin disease runs rampant in the overcrowded, sun-scorched cells.
The editorial also suggests he veto the National Defense Authorization Act. Readers might recall that the NDAA, which Obama signed in late 2011, was the moment civil libertarians fully understood that Obama would, contrary to his campaign promises, spend his time in office accruing as much power as he could. The ACLU, with a heavy heart and the scales fallen from their eyes, released a statement: “President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” pronounced ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.”
But of course by that time, Obama had ordered military action against Libya without bothering to go to Congress about it and rested his national security strategy on its most secretive element: the drone war. The use of drones to target anyone the Obama administration decides poses a threat has been effective, though it comes at the cost of the deaths of civilians the administration considers collateral damage. And it is in this aspect of Obama’s national security policy that he appears to believe that what he is doing is problematic but doesn’t particularly care. The New York Times reports on a cartoonishly cynical approach to targeted assassination coming from the White House:
It seems ages ago that President Obama delivered a speech in the early days of his presidency, suffused with self-righteousness and moral demagoguery, announcing he was closing the Guantanamo Bay prison. Unable to resist the temptation to smear his predecessor’s name with distortions and half-truths, the former law professor summoned all his reckless certainty to educate the American people: “Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al-Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law.”
So Obama, who supported the Supreme Court’s precedent-gutting Boumediene decision, which granted non-citizen enemy combatants habeas corpus rights, ordered the facility closed. Because that was an obviously empty promise, Obama added another executive order two years later establishing periodic review for detainees at the prison. And then the wheels came off the Moral Authority Express. It turned out instead of bringing enemy combatants to Guantanamo, where detainees are well-fed and have access to attorneys, Obama has been sending them to a disease-ridden hell-on-earth in Somalia. And the Obama administration began urging the Supreme Court to ignore the detainees’ appeals. And now it seems those periodic review boards were–what would the president call them? Just words:
The Obama administration has begun limiting the legal rights of terror suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, telling a federal judge Tuesday the government alone should decide when the prisoners deserve regular access to their counsel.
In a 52-page filing, Justice Department lawyers said they have started restricting when Guantanamo prisoners can challenge their detention in a Washington-based federal court. If approved, any relaxing of the rules would be made on a case-by-case basis at the exclusive discretion of military officials, not by the courts.
So President Obama never actually followed through on that campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay. But as a modest consolation, the administration has reportedly made certain upgrades to the facility to enrich the lives of the detainees, including a world-class soccer field, a “communal living” environment with cable TV and entertainment, and life improvement classes. Yes, they are still detained indefinitely, but at least they can learn how to write a cover letter or hone their watercolor techniques:
Among the recent improvements to the facility commonly known as “Gitmo”: a heavily guarded soccer field for detainees known as “Super Rec,” which cost nearly $750,000 and opened this week; cable television in a communal living quarters and “enriching your life” classes for detainees, which include instruction on learning to paint, writing a resume — even handling personal finances. …
Many of the improvements have been made at the most modern facility in the detention center, known as Camp VI, a communal living compound that houses about 80 percent of the 169 detainees currently held at Gitmo. There, detainees who are deemed to be compliant with the rules and therefore eligible for more privileges are able to watch 21 Cable TV channels, DVD movies, read newspapers and borrow books from a library.
Eli Lake reports:
Covertly taken photos of CIA interrogators that were shown by defense attorneys to al Qaeda inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison represent a more serious security breach than the 2003 outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the agency’s former general counsel said Wednesday.
John Rizzo, who was the agency’s top attorney until December, said in an interview that he initially requested the Justice Department and CIA investigation into the compromise of CIA interrogators’ identities after photographs of the officers were found in the cell of one al Qaeda terrorist in Cuba.
Recall that Guantanamo detainees — some of whom may now have been released back to their home countries (and returned to the battlefield, given the rate of recidivism) — were shown pictures of CIA agents by their attorneys. The danger to these public servants is acute:
“Well I think this is far more serious than Valerie Plame,” Mr. Rizzo said after a breakfast speech. “That was clearly illegal, outing a covert officer. I am not downplaying that. But this is far more serious.”
“This was not leaked to a columnist,” he added. “These were pictures of undercover people who were involved in the interrogations program given for identification purposes to the 9/11 [terrorists].”
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is now investigating the matter. At this stage, we know that “the photographs appeared to have been taken by private investigators for the John Adams Project, which is jointly backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.” As Lake notes, serious violations of law may have occurred:
One possible crime would be the “disclosure of classified information, being the faces of these people, to an enemy foreign power,” Mr. Rizzo said.
Mr. Rizzo said the other possible law the pro-bono attorneys may have violated would be the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), the same law Mr. Fitzgerald initially investigated in Mrs. Plame’s case. No one in the Plame case was prosecuted under that statute. A former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., was convicted of lying to investigators and later partially pardoned.
We will see what Fitzgerald turns up. But the potential that lawyers illegally disclosed materials to terrorists and thereby endangered CIA agents should remind us of the mentality of those who claimed to be defending our “values” as they litigated against the U.S.
No affront, no insult taken when Hillary Clinton is dissed by Putin and told that Russia is going ahead with its plans to help the mullahs build a nuclear reactor. Condemnation to follow? “Another full affrontal from the forces of tyranny against visiting American diplos. Since the slap came to Hillary this time, who makes the sassy 43-minute phone call to Putin? Is it Joe? Barack Obama himself? Maybe Bill should step in for his gal?” Now, Bill Clinton — there’s an idea.
How’s the Russian “reset” working out? “Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russia will help Iran launch its first nuclear power plant this summer, delivering a diplomatic slap to visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a blow to U.S.-led efforts to increase financial pressure on Tehran. … Mr. Putin’s comments come as the Obama administration has endured other slights on the global stage in recent weeks. Israel’s government announced new construction in disputed East Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden last week. Chinese officials have rebuffed U.S. calls for a revaluing of the yuan and greater Internet freedoms.”
Tony Rezko’s banker’s worst clients aren’t the mobsters. They’re the mullahs.
Eric Cantor blasts Obama’s double standard on Israel.
The ObamaCare effect: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-four percent (44%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President. … Each time the President leads a big push for his health care plan, his job approval ratings suffer.”
On a possible Obama meeting with Bibi, Ben Smith deadpans: “It seems reasonable at some point to ask what purpose the high-level American expressions of outrage last week wound up serving.”
What does Tom Campbell think of the Obama fight with Israel? At approximately 5:20 on the video, he seems not to have any problem with Joe Biden or the administration’s approach. His GOP opponents both excoriated the Obami.
They keep making it worse, explains Bill Kristol: “Nancy Pelosi and Louise Slaughter have come up with a parliamentary maneuver — ‘deem and pass’ — reeking of evasiveness and trickery that Democratic members are going to have to embrace. But it gets better! The point of ‘deem and pass’ is to allow representatives to vote directly only on the reconciliation ‘fixes’ rather than on the Senate health care bill (which will be deemed to be passed if reconciliation passes). But the reconciliation ‘fixes’ make the Senate bill even more politically unattractive.” Honest! More taxes and more Medicare cuts.
It didn’t sound like there was a deal to be had: “Even the leading proponent of a deal to close the Guantanamo Bay prison is throwing cold water on talk that such a compromise is imminent. A spokesman for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dismissed a report in the Wall Street Journal Friday that the White House and a bipartisan group of senators were nearing agreement to close Guantanamo and settle a series of related thorny issues, including sending alleged September 11 plotters to military commissions.”
The American people aren’t buying the Obama spin that moving Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. is a good idea. Gallup reports:
Americans remain opposed to closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and moving some of the terrorist suspects being held there to U.S. prisons: 30% favor such actions, while 64% do not. These attitudes could present a significant roadblock for President Obama at a time when he seeks congressional approval to move terrorist suspects from Guantanamo to a converted state prison in northwestern Illinois.
Now that’s as bad as the health-care polling, and the White House and Congress are ignoring public opinion on that one. So an overwhelming show of public opposition to a harebrained leftist gambit is no guarantee it will be abandoned. But on this one, there is little upside to the Democrats’ supporting the White House. Indeed, it is the perfect opportunity to put a little daylight between them and an administration that is increasingly out of touch with the electorate.