Analiese’s Reading 4/21
Obama’s middle way: wiretaps and state secrets, torture, economic rescue plans, Cuba and South and Central American policy, Obama’s faith-based council, and the anti-Obama reaction from the right.
Obama Lawyers Invoke “State Secrets” to Block Warrantless Spying Lawsuit
In a motion filed in a San Francisco court on Friday, attorneys for the Obama administration moved to dismiss a challenge to the National Security Agency’s notorious warrantless wiretapping program. “The information implicated by this case, which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” DOJ lawyers argued in the 36-page brief, echoing an argument made ad nauseum by the Bush administration.
More Immunity Claims on Wiretapping from Obama DOJ
In three separate cases in as many months, the Obama Justice Department has used the same arguments that the Bush administration Justice Department used to attempt to stop judicial review of extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping. In the Mohamed v. Jeppesen extraordinary rendition case, the Obama administration reiterated the Bush administration argument that the case should be dismissed to preserve “states secrets.” Likewise, in the Al-Haramain wiretapping case, Obama’s DOJ used the arguments of the Bush administration to argue, again, that state secrets should prevent the Al-Haramain case–in which the only secret isn’t a secret because it was inadvertently shared with plaintiff’s attorneys–from moving forward.
Officials Say U.S. Wiretaps Exceeded Law
The legal and operational problems surrounding the N.S.A.’s surveillance activities have come under scrutiny from the Obama administration, Congressional intelligence committees and a secret national security court, said the intelligence officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because N.S.A. activities are classified. Classified government briefings have been held in recent weeks in response to a brewing controversy that some officials worry could damage the credibility of legitimate intelligence-gathering efforts.
NSA Revelations Spark Push to Restore FISA
In 2007 and 2008, as the Democratic-led Congress and the Bush administration collaborated in rewriting several elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, civil libertarians in and outside of Congress warned that the changes would institutionalize wide-ranging surveillance by the National Security Agency on U.S. citizens. In the wake of the revelations that the NSA “overcollected” domestic communications even beyond the boundaries of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, many are claiming vindication — and vowing to lead an effort, once thought to be a longshot, to restore old FISA protections.
President’s Statement On Torture Memos
The Department of Justice will today release certain memos issued by the Office of Legal Counsel between 2002 and 2005 as part of an ongoing court case. These memos speak to techniques that were used in the interrogation of terrorism suspects during that period, and their release is required by the rule of law.
UN torture investigator: Obama has broken International law
The United Nation’s top torture investigator has suggested it is illegal under International law for President Barack Obama to announce that the United States government has no intention of prosecuting low-level CIA officers who carried out torture sanctioned by the Bush Administration.
Official: Obama doesn’t want interrogation charges
President Barack Obama does not intend to prosecute Bush administration officials who devised the policies that led to the harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday.
Is Eric Holder a Gonzalez-like Lackey?
How do we square this statement with the President’s announcement that those who waterboarded terrorism suspects, among other torture techniques, would not be prosecuted? By issuing such a statement it appears President Obama is the “legal decider” and he has decided, in explicitly political terms, that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”
Pragmatism on Torture Another ‘Sorry Kind of Wisdom’
Three of the saddest days in my life occurred in 1996 when I stood at the edge of a mass grave being excavated in Guatemala. It was a product of right-wing death squads who roamed at will in a country whose most murderous leaders were praised in Washington. After the 1954 CIA coup, the military there was trained in the United States and by visiting Green Beret advisers. Vigorous support by the ruling oligarchs for U.S. corporate interests marked one of the darkest episodes since the Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary gave Washington “legal” support for meddling in the affairs of this hemisphere’s sovereign nations.
Geithner Bank Plan Faces New Wave Of Criticism
Two weeks after being introduced, Timothy Geithner’s bank rescue plan is facing a new round of withering criticism from economists who say the proposal is likely to produce major losses for taxpayers as banks and investors game the system.
In public writings and interviews with the Huffington Post, some of the same figures that issued early warnings about the current financial crisis now say that Geithner’s designs for alleviating toxic assets from the nation’s banks are inherently flawed. As evidence, they point to the massive amount of federal funding, in the form of FDIC backing, being offered to prospective buyers of toxic assets.
Geithner and Summers Want More Debt Bubbles: The Result Could Be Catastrophic
Are we standing at the edge of a Great Inflation (like Weimar Germany), a second Republican Great Depression, or a return to the middle class prosperity of the Roosevelt/Eisenhower New Deal era? Until Americans understand the difference between “money” and “debt,” odds are its going to be one of the first two, at least over the next few years.
Assessing Treasury’s Strategy: Six Months of TARP
The April oversight report for COP is entitled Assessing Treasury’s Strategy: Six Months of TARP. In this report, COP offers a preliminary look at Treasury’s strategy and offers a comparative analysis of previous efforts to combat banking crises in the past. Over the last six months, Treasury has spent or committed $590.4 billion of the TARP funds. Treasury has also relied heavily on the use of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet which has expanded by more than $1.5 trillion (not including expected TALF loans) in conjunction with the financial stabilization activities it has undertaken beyond its monetary policy operations. This has allowed Treasury to leverage TARP funds well beyond the funds appropriated by Congress.
This Week in Scandals: TARP, Torture, and More
TARP cash was supposed to ultimately wend its way to borrowers, but it seems to have gotten stuck in bank coffers along the way: Lending actually fell  in February at the 21 largest banks receiving bailout bucks, the Treasury said this week. (Mortgage lending did see a significant boost, though.) Meanwhile, mortgage lenders are lifting foreclosure moratoriums, putting more people out on the street  just as the Obama administration unrolls its “homeowner bailout .”
Obama to allow travel, money transfers to Cuba
President Barack Obama directed his administration Monday to allow unlimited travel and money transfers by Cuban Americans to family in Cuba, and to take other steps to ease U.S. restrictions on the island, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.
Obama’s Reality Check
Many people, including most of the presidents and leaders of South America, were hoping that President Obama would initiate a serious change in US-Latin American relations, after the low point reached during the Bush years. Change will certainly come – it is happening every week – but there are few if any signs that the initiative will come from the north.
Obama’s “faith-based” FAIL
Obama has made his final appointments to his controversial council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Sarah Posner summarizes what that means for reproductive rights:
With his council appointments now complete, Obama has given far more seats on his council to religious leaders who are anti-choice than to ones who are openly pro-choice, even though the majority of Americans favor legal abortion. There are only two pro-choicers, and they’re both Jewish. Reproductive-health advocates suggested several pro-choice Christians to the White House as worthy additions to the council. By not giving them seats, though, the administration shows that it is too afraid to challenge anti-choice evangelicals by putting their pro-choice brothers and sisters at the same table.
What a Killer Was Watching
On April 6, two days after the 22-year-old Richard Poplawski allegedly murdered three police officers in Pittsburgh, a radio host named Alex Jones settled in before a microphone in his studio in Austin, Texas, to do some damage control. “The mainstream media has certainly enjoyed tying me into this story,” Jones complained. “They’re attacking me and saying I’m delusional and there’s no New World Order… The Second Amendment, what the country’s founded on—it’s all my fault!”
At Gun Show, Conservatives Panic About Obama
Other attendees were uncomfortable revealing their first or last names. As massive as the event is — the Knob Creek Gun Range estimated that around 15,000 people passed through the gates–it does not keep tabs on who comes in. This is a safe haven, where guns can change hands without a lot of paperwork, and where ammunition is relatively cheap, though the prices have skyrocketed in the last few years. A purchase of an old Mauser rifle that would take some red tape-cutting in a gun shop is hassle-free at the gun range.
DHS Report: After Obama’s Election, Right-Wing Extremists ‘May Be Gaining New Recruits’
Throughout the presidential campaign, the public saw extreme right-wing rhetoric on display at several McCain rallies, with some yelling “kill him” about President Obama — and others even calling him a “terrorist.”
The extreme right — those who are “hate-oriented,” “mainly antigovernment,” or those dedicated to a “single issue” — is a legitimate threat that law enforcement must deal with, according to a new assessment from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security.
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