The Privileged

Friday, February 13, 2009


During his campaign, President Obama criticized the Bush Administration's profligate use of the State Secrets Privilege. But this week, lawyers for the Obama administration invoked that rule in an ongoing trial. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick has some possible explanations for the shift.

Comments [34]

David from Rhode Island

Matt - over and over? I see one reference in post #13. Did I miss something?

Feb. 22 2009 10:10 AM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

And I have been saying over and over that Dahlia Lithwick has reported more on the story that supports what I have been saying over and over. check out the gabfest and other reporting on this topic.

Feb. 22 2009 12:08 AM
blackbelt_jones from debian

From the transcript:

BOB GARFIELD: - what have we just witnessed? And you posit some theories as to why the administration acted the way it did.

DAHLIA LITHWICK: Right, and I'm one of many people. I think the most obvious one is that they just didn't have time to get it together on this.

So... what if "the most obvious explanation" is the correct one? I know that Obama promised to change the policy, but did he promise to change it in the first month? If he did, and he only manages to change it in the first year, how egriegious is that, really? I've pretty much been saying this over and over. And Matt has been ignoring me over and over.

I'm sure that campaign promises will be broken, they always are, but I don't see this as happening here, not yet.

Feb. 21 2009 11:53 AM
David from Rhode Island

Matt - It isn't that I disagree that Obama was clearly inexperienced and lots of people (including me, not that that matters) pointed it out. I think the points at this stage are that 1) Anyone, from McCain to Obama, need time after getting the job to see what is really involved. There is no reality for POTUS except on-the-job training. So give the guy some time. Related to that is 2) Once you are really there, you are going to break campaign promises that you knew you were going to break before you even got there (and they all will do that) and break promises you had every intention of keeping because you just had no idea.

Did Obama have less of an idea than McCain might have? Sure, maybe. But the point as related to this story and the subsequent thread is that coming down on the guy for a reality that was inevitable just means that the people coming down on him were naive to begin with. It is never about broken campaign promises. It is about what he does while he is there, why he does it, and how he does it. As I said earlier, I am thrilled that he is not doing what he campaigned on as much as he is making pragmatic, rational decisions. Well, some anyway.

Feb. 21 2009 09:26 AM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

Exactly how many broken campaign promises will BB and OTM wait for before they make up their mind. 2, 3, 4? Or will it just be until after the Omnibus appropriation bill next month? I think John Mccain said it correctly, America needs and deserves a president that doesn't require on the job training. Too bad it has come true. Obama is a hell of a campaigner, so that is all that we are going to see for the next four years, permanent campaigning and little governing. And with such little governing going on we can give him three and half years of chances and maybe even a full eight.

Feb. 20 2009 08:24 PM
David from Rhode Island

Matt - Well then, you and I agree 100% on the predictions and lack of experience and the response of lib media like OTM. I think I misunderstood your point.

But you and BB should talk. I think you are a little wrong on what he is trying to say as well. I won't presume to speak for him, he is an intelligent guy that is quite capable. But I don't think he was addressing OTM's take on this, just speaking for himself that he wants to give Obama a chance. Having had many conversations with BB, I know he knows that campaign promises are not to be taken at face value. But there is no doubt that when (not if) Bush seemingly reversed himself on campaign promises (he did have kind of an excuse called 9/11), OTM and Bob gleefully reported it in a smarmy, condescending manner. But then, Bob has never really tried to hide his hatred of Bush. O wait, Bob is a neutral liberal/conservative, free market/government control type of guy. LOL LOL LOL

Feb. 20 2009 08:07 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

bbjones if you followed the reporting referred to in the original OTM story, you would realize how asinine your responses are.
David, It was my understanding that the challenge to Obama's experience was that this type of situation would occur and be commonplace because of his lack of executive experience coupled with his people pleasing campaign rhetoric. I just want to point out that this was predicted by republicans at all levels of party and governmental leadership, but no credit will be given by OTM, NPR, etc. If the reverse (party wise) were to happen with a Republican president, the airwaves would be inundated with stories about the progressive predictions of the republican's performance. that is all.

Feb. 20 2009 04:47 PM
dianne from toronto ont

this is for mr.mccain this is due to banding dogs from ontario i dont think it right to band a dog because dogs are the way thet are from there owners when u have a dog u raise it the way u want your dog to be if u want your dog to attack then it will attack but if u want your dog to be friendly it will be friendly it all has to do with the owners of these dogs it has nothing to do with the dog so if anything the owners should be punish not the dog i had three pitbulls before and kids and they never attacked anybody because i train them well.

Feb. 20 2009 04:24 PM
Jeff from Chicago

Sorry bb, I took you to be someone who kept up with current events. My bad. If you see nothing wrong with Obama's ethical lapses or the transgressions of those he chooses to employ, good for you. I for one expected more. Obama promised exactly this repeatedly. With each one broken, American confidence in him suffers.

Feb. 20 2009 09:50 AM
David from Rhode Island

Matt - you and I agree on one thing, anyway. A campaign promise is a campaign promise. The difference is that you think they mean something, I think they are completely meaningless on their own, and never pay attention to them. I take them in cojunction with track records, which in the case of Obama was thin but still there. And that record made it obvious he would never be a completely left-liberal politician, even on the point of these particular issues. Frankly, I was more worried about his wife's influence once he actually got that kind of power; it is a wild card that is impossible to predict. So far that seems to be a non-factor, but it is quite early. Obama is interested in 2 terms, in being an historic president on the order of FDR and Reagan, and as such is going to govern with as much "gravitas" as possible.

I have to admit I am confused as to what your issue with Obama (or OTM or whomever) is here. Are you complaining that people are not excoriating Obama for breaking this promise, complaining that you (and others like you) were excoriated because you said that he had little experience and thus his promises were naive, or what exactly? Plenty of people that supported Obama are complaining about his actions here, about his middle-of-the-road cabinet appointments, etc. Not so many are giving him a free pass on this, and even having said that, I don't think that realizing he will not govern on every campaign promise he made means they are "carrying his water".

Feb. 20 2009 08:17 AM
blackbelt_jones from the Belly of the Beast

I think bb jones posting over and over about an OTM story insisting that a broken Obama campaign promise is not a broken campaign promise because blackbelt jones has not formed an overall opinion about the Obama Presidency showed a toolness beyond description.

Pardon my typing, Im having a little software problem, so things I type are something coming out a little differently.

There no because in there. It two different things. It not a broken promise because promising not to follow the Bush adminsistrations policy is not the same as never ever declaring a state secret. It this continues, that becomes a broken promise.

Now, broken are pretty much a given, aren theyÉ When was the last president who didn break a promiseÉ

I haven formed an opinion because it been four weeks. Right now, the only opinion I could possibly form would be based on prejudice. And Id just be carrying Obamas water

Feb. 19 2009 11:21 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

David, lets not jump to conclusions here. A campaign promise is a campaign promise. My original point was that people who pointed out the implications of Obama's lack of experience in these matters were marginalized during the campaign. It is a big deal that the President, or more likely Atty Gen. Holder, took time out of his permanent campaign to feel the weight of his office and responsibility to the security of the United States and didn't let the 9th circuit go hog wild with this case. It is an even bigger deal that a line of argument actively suppressed by the media during the election is slowly being confirmed as of great import as these issue trickle out.
If the OTM segment was about the state secret privilege and not about the broken campaign promise less than 30 days into the administration, I would be glad to argue for the Bush Administration stance on the issue, but we get the policies of the executive we elect, so get used to the double standard and the name calling, Obama has come down from the mountain and it has been proclaimed.

Feb. 19 2009 10:17 PM
David from Rhode Island

Matt, I will say it again. If you really thought that a President of the United States, once he was actually responsible for the ultimate security decisions for his country, would act in such a manner as to make the country less secure, and worse, if you think that is a good idea, then you are hopelessly naive. This wasn't a campaign promise as much as it was blatent posturing so he could get elected. And as negative as that sounds, I actually don't mean it to be. It should have been obvious to everyone. But hey, you can take comfort with your heroes of history, like Neville Chamberlain and Jimmy Carter.

Feb. 19 2009 08:57 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

I think bb jones posting over and over about an OTM story insisting that a broken Obama campaign promise is not a broken campaign promise because blackbelt jones has not formed an overall opinion about the Obama Presidency showed a toolness beyond description.
If bb ends up with an overall positive opinion about the Obama presidency then this broken promise should be seen as only a practical political and legal necessity and anyone who disagrees will be called names.
On the other hand if bb ends up with an overall negative opinion about the Obama presidency this broken promise will be added to the list of affronts to democracy and good government that bb jones will post about over and over about and anyone who disagrees will be called names.
I find that much closer to the definition to being a tool, than pointing out the implications of a broken campaign promise in-line with the original OTM story.

Feb. 19 2009 04:53 PM
David from Rhode Island

BB my buddy - You made me fall out of my chair laughing with that last one. Excellent! These guys really are tools, their world is so black and white and hyper to the extreme. I would LOVE to see them try to do the job (not really, but you know what I mean).

Yeah, Obama is back-tracking on campaign promises. IMPEACH HIM!! IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!!! THIS IS TREASONOUS!! Tell you what guys. Let's see if the policies he does implement work or not, and let's see who he appoints to the Supremes when he gets a chance (and he will). Let's see if he backs off this stuff about letting unions outlaw secret ballots (that is more democratic?? How about we just enforce laws that punish companies for intimidation, and/or make new ones that make the penalties for doing so more severe). Hard to imagine how the right answer is letting your supporters engage in the same shameful tactics as the other side. Anyway, I digress. You guys were living in a dream world if you really thought that he could (and more importantly, should) do everything he said he would. In the movies, maybe. Get real. Grow up and understand that the bad guys don't do what they do because of what we do and did. They do what they do because we (and the rest of the world) won't do exactly what they do, such as try to wipe out Israel, pray 5 times a day (not that I object to them doing that, I just do not want to), stone women for showing their hair, or for being raped. So I, for one, am glad that Obama is not actually the Pollyanna fool that he campaigned as.

Feb. 19 2009 02:37 PM
blackbelt_jones from debian


The chief of staff is getting rent free housing? Actually, it's much worse than that. Turns out that Obama himself is getting rent-free housing. I don't know if this is common knowledge or not, but he's actually moved into the White House! I read it on wikipedia.

Feb. 19 2009 08:40 AM
blackbelt_jones from debian

All I ever said was that I was going to wait and see, just as i did for Bush, who I did not support. And then I poked Matt a few times, Not because I was carrying Obama's water. Purely for my own amusement. I talk about Matt being a ragin tool, because, whiile I do like Obama personally, I have no opinion on his presidency. Why should I form an opinion now. So I can get along with Matt?

I'd like Obama to be a good and successful president, and I'll hope for that as long as I honestly can.

Clinton retreads? That's just nonsense. Where else do you get experienced people to work in the white.

The extraordinary rendition thing sounds kind of troubling. I'll have to look into that.

Feb. 19 2009 08:33 AM
Jeff from Chicago

come on bb, you're a fool

state's secret privilege

3 waivers of the lobbyist ban

reserving the right to use extraordinary rendition

cabinet appointees who don't pay their taxes

chief of staff getting rent-free housing

a WH full of Clinton retreads

Obama is warmed over sos. probably worse

Feb. 18 2009 10:54 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

Brass tacks, eh?
I think most mainstream people in America would come to the same conclusion that a single case of a broken campaign promise is a single case of a broken campaign promise.

Promising to reform a policy and then advocating the exact policy you promised to reform in federal court is a broken promise.

Obama supporters cannot have it both ways. The particulars of the case do not allow it. It can't be both a proper use of the state secrets privilege and fulfillment of the campaign promise to reduce the state secrets privilege back to the narrow evidentiary rule it was before the Bush Administration expanded its use.

Blackbelt jones or anyone else carrying water or spinning for the administration cannot have it both ways. The particulars of the litigation before the court makes any assertion of state secrets at this point in the litigation a violation of the campaign promise.

The unbending brass tacks Blackbelt jones insists on balancing on cannot allow it.

Feb. 18 2009 06:39 PM
blackbelt_jones from debian

It's not his critics who I picture wearing funny hats, it's you. I know it's wrong to be personal, but you are a raging tool, and a classic old-school internet crank. I know you can't help it, but it's getting harder and harder not to mock you as go thorough your incredibly over-the-top self-important shtick.

Sorry. I'll try not to mention it again.

Now to get back to brass tacks, we'll see. LIke I said, I don't think a single case constitutes a broken promise, unless Obama said there would be no such thing as a state secret. He promised to reform the overall policy. Mr. ACLU guy seems to think that "no pattern of abuse" means "no such thing as a state secret" but I don't agree. Not abusing the power means not abusing the power, and a pattern of abuse requires more than one case to be proven.

Feb. 18 2009 01:59 AM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

I will admit that those of us that warned that Candidate Obama's lack of experience would be a problem couldn't forsee that the consequences of his lack of substance, once in the White House, would lead to his supporters substituting the picturing critics wearing funny hats instead of actually understanding what public policy a candidate promised and what public policy the government was pursuing in the courts. as unbelievably naive today as it was during the campaign for both the candidate and his supporters.

Feb. 16 2009 11:12 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

Be specific?
From the New York Times article Quote from the ED of the ACLU: "Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue."
From Dahlia's Slate article and a quote from the campaign, "Obama said during the campaign that he deplored the Bush administration's use of the privilege 'to get cases thrown out of civil court.'"
Is that specific enough?
I will admit that those of us that warned that Candidate Obama's lack of experience would be a problem, couldn't forsee that the consequences of his lack of substance, once in the White House, would lead to his supporters substituting picturing critics for propeller-beany wearing hats instead of actually understanding what public policy a candidate promised and what public policy the government was pursuing in the courts.

Feb. 16 2009 02:13 PM
blackbelt_jones from debian

Sorry, that was just me being a jerk. My point is that there's no denying that Obama has done a lot to facilitate greater transparency in these early days, but I don't remember hm ever promising that there would be NO SUCH THING as a state secret during an Obama administration, and if he did make that promise, I think hes going to need to break it sooner or later.

Feb. 16 2009 04:03 AM
blackbelt_jones from debian

You're not going to actually be specific, are you? Please don't quote something that Obama promised that he clearly lied about, because I'd have to stop picturing you wearing the propeller-beany, and that would really suck.

Feb. 16 2009 03:35 AM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

How hypocritical of blackbelt jones. Attack vigorously sarcasm directed at President Obama's complete lack of experience before the election. Then after the election pour on more sarcasm when the president doesn't have the tools to deliver on those same vague campaign promises that raised the experience question to begin with. Keep up with sarcasm it sure makes up for the broken campaign promises.

Feb. 15 2009 09:09 PM
chuck thompson from Anchorage, AK

BTW: If there is any truth to Ms. Lithwick's third possible theory: That Obama just doesn't want to re-visit the matter of the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration, then I guess any honeymoon with Obama, on my part, is finished.

I, for one, want to know ALL the sordid details and learn all the dirty little secrets about violations of civil rights, renditions, habeas corpus, due process and constitutional "privilege" that Bush and his gang of criminals committed whether -- as Ms. Lithwick puts it -- it might "rip the country apart" or not.

I feel that in the past eight years my CONSTITUTION has been ripped apart and my country is only as good as my constitution. I'm ready to commence some major repair work, no matter how painful it might be to some people's careers or sensitivities.

Feb. 14 2009 11:25 PM
chuck thompson from Anchorage, AK

Am I missing something here?
The fact that we can quicly posit half-a-dozen theories as to why Obama has opted to embrace Bush administration positions in this case must surely beg the "transparency" question.

How transparent is the Obama administration if we're left to wildly speculate . . . "WTF just happened here?"
A little openness and sunshine would be nice.
A major shift in course from Bush's "state secrets" policy would also.

Feb. 14 2009 11:10 PM
David from Rhode Island

BB Jones - LOL!! All in good fun, Matt. I think.

Feb. 14 2009 06:34 PM
blackbelt_jones from the Belly of the Beast

Actually, Matt, I always pictured you wearing one of those little propeller beanies.

Feb. 14 2009 04:46 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

Funny how those pointing out the hollow nature of Obama's campaign rhetoric were accused of wearing a a tin foil hat while captaining their armchair, when it takes OTM less than thirty days to run a story about the President failing to measure up to the same campaign promises conservatives complained were empty sobs to left wing activists. It is especially poignant that those same campaign promises that conservatives knew were only political posturing and not a serious engagement with the issues are those of such import as confronting terrorist and those who support terrorist acts.

Feb. 14 2009 02:34 PM
David from Rhode Island

David Rowe - Couldn't have said it better myself. I would only add that Bob never, to my recollection, ever posited there could be real, intelligence reasons for the Bush administrations taking this position. It was a far more smarmy (as you correctly said) "Oh really" take on it. Besides, if they did change their mond upon further review, then Holder would have to explain why Clinton did the same thing while he was there.

Speaking of Bob and OTM being inconsistent and sloppy, see my comment on the Prosecutorial Discretion story.

Feb. 14 2009 12:47 PM
David Rowe from Lawrenceville, NJ

Kudos to OTM for doing their first non-media "On the Media" administration story on Obama. And I don't have a problem with Bob giving them the benefit of the doubt and even suggesting that maybe there are real, intellignece reasons for not wanting the case to go forward. That may well be!

I just wish Bob had given that benefit-of-the-doubt with his smarmy, sarcastic tone.

Feb. 14 2009 09:26 AM
blackbelt_jones from debian

PS I'm completely confident that I would extend the same benefit to a President McCain.

Feb. 14 2009 07:53 AM
blackbelt_jones from debian

Before we start feeling like hypocrites for wanting to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, let's not forget that that there was a time, (it seems like a hundred and fifty years ago), when most of us were willing to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt. Bush squandered the opportunity, like so many others. I hope Obama does better. He could hardly do worse.

Feb. 14 2009 07:48 AM

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