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Change We Can Believe In, XXII

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Change We Can Believe In: Institutionalize Bush civil liberty policies

Yes, I’ve touched on this theme before. But it’s time to circle back, thanks to George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley’s op-ed piece in today’s LA Times. The article should be read in full. Here’s a sample:

Historically, this country has tended to correct periods of heightened police powers with a pendulum swing back toward greater individual rights. Many were questioning the extreme measures taken by the Bush administration, especially after the disclosure of abuses and illegalities. Candidate Obama capitalized on this swing and portrayed himself as the champion of civil liberties.

However, President Obama not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them. The earliest, and most startling, move came quickly. Soon after his election, various military and political figures reported that Obama reportedly promised Bush officials in private that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture. In his first year, Obama made good on that promise, announcing that no CIA employee would be prosecuted for torture. Later, his administration refused to prosecute any of the Bush officials responsible for ordering or justifying the program and embraced the “just following orders” defense for other officials, the very defense rejected by the United States at the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised. He continued warrantless surveillance and military tribunals that denied defendants basic rights. He asserted the right to kill U.S. citizens he views as terrorists. His administration has fought to block dozens of public-interest lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses.

I have nothing to add to Turley’s conclusion that “the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties.”

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Categories: Law, Politics, Torture