The Shocking Pattern of Obama Repeating Some of the Worst of George W. Bush
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The Obama policy of declining to hold any high official or even CIA interrogators accountable for violations of the law by the preceding administration would likely not have survived opposition by Sunstein. A promise not to prosecute, however, has been implicit in the findings by the Obama Justice Department -- a promise that was made explicit by Leon Panetta in February 2009 when he had just been named President Obama’s new director of the CIA.
As head of the president’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, with an office in the White House, Sunstein adjudicates government policy on issues of worker and consumer safety; yet his title suggests a claim of authority on issues such as the data-mining of information about American citizens and the government’s deployment of a state secrets privilege. He deserves wider attention, too, for his 2008 proposal that the government “cognitively infiltrate” discussion groups on-line and in neighborhoods, paying covert agents to monitor and, if possible, discredit lines of argument which the government judges to be extreme or misleading.
5. Eric Holder: Holder once said that the trial of suspected 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a New York City courtroom would be “the defining event of my time as attorney general.” The decision to make KSM’s a civilian trial was, however, scuttled, thanks to incompetent management at the White House: neither the first nor last failure of its kind. The policy of trying suspected terrorists in civilian courts seems to have suffered from never being wholeheartedly embraced by the administration’s inside actors. Local resistance by the New York authorities was the ostensible reason for the failure and the change of venue back to a military tribunal at Guantanamo. No member of the administration besides Holder has been observed to show much regret.
During his 30-month tenure, in keeping with Obama’s willingness to overlook the unpleasant history of CIA renditions and “extreme interrogations,” Holder has made no move to prosecute any upper-level official of any of the big banks and money firms responsible for the financial collapse of 2008. His silence on the subject has been taken as a signal that such prosecutions will never occur. To judge by public statements, the energies of the attorney general, in an administration that arrived under the banner of bringing “sunshine” and “transparency” to Washington, have mainly been dedicated to the prosecution of government whistle-blowers through a uniquely rigorous application of the Espionage Act of 1917. More people have been accused under that law by this attorney general than in the entire preceding 93 years of the law’s existence.
Again, this is a focus that Bush-era attorney generals John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and Michael Mukasey might have relished, but on which none would have dared to act so boldly. Extraordinary delays in grand jury proceedings on Army Private Bradley Manning, suspected of providing government secrets to WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange, who ran that website, are said to have come from a protracted attempt to secure a legal hold against one or both potential defendants within the limits of a barbarous and almost dormant law.
6. Dennis Ross: Earlier in his career, Obama seems to have cherished an interest in the creation of an independent Palestinian state. In Chicago, he was a friend of the dissident Middle East scholar Rashid Khalidi; during his 2007 primary campaign, he sought and received advice from Robert Malley, former special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. Both were “realist” opponents of the expansionist policy of Israel’s right-wing coalition government, which subsidizes and affords military protection to Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank.