So if I understand this correctly -- and I'm pretty sure I do -- when the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was 'both legal and necessary' as well as 'essential to U.S. national security,' and it was the 'despicable' whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials. But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. Behold Jane Harman's overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist.
Recently, the White House has sent mixed signals about whether it supports investigations into the Bush administration officials who authored the torture policies.
On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that "those who devised the policies?should not be prosecuted." Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted yesterday the White House was failing to hold anyone "accountable" for torture. However, today the New York Times' Peter Baker and Scott Shane reported that aides to Obama ?did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.?
In the Oval Office this afternoon, the AP's Jennifer Loven put the question directly to Obama. He refused to rule out prosecutions of the Bush lawyers who created the legal underpinnings for torture, saying it was a question he would leave up to Attorney General Eric Holder:
OBAMA: The OLC memos that were released reflected in my view us losing our moral bearings. ... For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted. With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws, and I don't want to prejudge that.
Obama also tacitly endorsed a bipartisan, Congressional commission to investigate Bush's torture program. Watch it:
Obama is effectively putting the ball in Holder's court. Recall, during his Senate confirmation hearing, Holder said that the President cannot "immunize" torture and must enforce the law in all cases:
LEAHY: Do you believe that the president of the United States has authority to exercise a commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture? I ask that because we did not get a satisfactory answer from Former Attorney General Gonzales on that.
HOLDER: Mr. Chairman, no one is above the law. The president has a constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. There are obligations that we have as a result of treaties that we have signed -- obligations, obviously, in the Constitution. Where Congress has passed a law, it is the obligation of the president, or the commander-in-chief, to follow those laws. [...]
If one looks at the various statutes that have been passed, it is my belief that the president does not have the power that you've indicated.
Attorney General Eric Holder told Katie Couric earlier this month that a special commission investigating torture is something that "Senator Leahy, the people in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the President will ultimately have to decide." Leahy, Judiciary Committee senators, and Obama have made up their mind. Now, it is up to Holder to ensure that "no one is above the law."
According to The Wall Street Journal, Timothy Geithner has indicated that the health of individual banks won't be the sole criterion for whether financial firms will be allowed to repay bailout funds. But as Felix Salmon writes, it's not clear that he[...]
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When the Pentagon budget was unveiled two weeks ago, I took the position that congress would be the biggest obstacle to reining in the beast that is Pentagon spending. What Congress might not have counted on was Gates being able to play hardball just as well as they can.
Fir instance, he couched his budget in terms of economic stimulus, and he preempted some of the criticism by acknowledging the loss of some jobs, but pointing out that they would be offset by job creation in other areas. "I am concerned for the possibility that these decisions will have an impact on individual companies and workers around the country," he told a press gaggle at the time, before describing job losses resulting from the proposed end of the F-22 fighter jet program - then noting that they'd be offset by likely gains from expanded production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Analysts who scrutinize every move by public figures for a living, however, are impressed with the degree of political acumen Gates displays.
"He showed he's anticipating Congress' response already," said Travis Sharp, military policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "Technically, the Pentagon, when it makes these decisions, is not supposed to take domestic employment into consideration."
Gates, who said this week he hasn't heard from members of Congress about his plan, will argue that his changes will make the military more nimble and modern, and called his recommendations "the product of a holistic assessment of capabilities, requirements, risks and needs for the purpose of shifting this department in a different strategic direction."
That requires what Gates terms a "fundamental overhaul of our approach to procurement, acquisition and contracting." He insists his approach is based on national security, not politics.
Among Gates' more controversial proposals are to end production of the F-22, which helps provide jobs in 46 states, and to end production of the DDG-1000 Navy destroyer after three ships.
At the same time, though, he would accelerate production of the F-35, restart production of DDG-51 Aegis destroyer program, significantly increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps, and boost the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The screaming started immediately. Congresspeople immediately started bitching about cuts to the defense budget - because everyone knows that $534 billion is far, far less than $513 billion. Defense contracts keep asses in congressional seats. ?No craven congresscritter wants to run on their record and the issues. Much easier to just wrap themselves tightly in the flag and run on the one-two punch of "you keep America safe, and I keep the money flowing so you can." [cue the Star Spangled Banner] ?
I have long been critical of Gates, but I always - always - respected the talent. And watching the criticism of his proposed budget die down and the wingnut chorus resort to bitching about handshakes, what started out as grudging respect is slowly turning into admiration.
Congress came back yesterday, and I didn't hear any whining about 'defense cuts' on the news last night. Did you?
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Is it common practice for Congressional staff to throw away letters from constituents hoping to have their voices heard?[...]
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It's hard to argue against Roubini these days since he's been much more right than wrong about this economy. There do appear to be some signs of life out there but it also seems tenuous and could turn quickly. We probably won't see any broad positive news out of the banks for quite a while and it's more likely that bad news will come first. More from Roubini and the AP:
"For people who say there are green shoots, I seen only yellow weeds frankly," Roubini said at a conference in Hong Kong. "It's not a true recovery. It's just a bear-market rally, it's a suckers rally."
That's because the U.S. economy won't grow again until 2010 after contracting by 2 percent this year, he said. Unemployment will hit 11 percent next year and corporate earnings will come in worse-than-expected, he predicted.
Troubles in the financial sector, meanwhile, are far from over and will be worse than many expect. The results of the government's "stress tests" will show even the biggest 19 American banks don't have enough capital to cope with the huge losses they'll inevitably suffer on souring loans.
James Webb, it seems, will not be supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, and won't even say if he'd support efforts to break a filibuster and let it get to the floor for a vote. That's a significant blow to EFCA, and something of a surprise given[...]
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President Obama is leaving the door open for prosecutions of Bush DOJ officials who provided the legal rationale to support torture policies.
In comments to reporters this morning, Obama said he didn't support prosecuting CIA officers who were carrying out the policy. But:
With respect to those who formulated those opinions, I would say that that it is going to be more of a [question] for the Attorney General, within the parameters of various laws. And I do not want to prejudge that.
Obama reiterated that as a general matter, he wants to look forward. But this goes further than anything he's yet said in terms of suggesting there's a real possibility that we could see investigations.
Here's AP's quick writeup of Obama's comments...
Back when Bush nominated him in 2003, apparently Bybee wasn't so forthcoming about his work at the Office of Legal Council. Russ Feingold opposed his confirmation for just that reason: March 13, 2003 Mr. President, I will oppose the nomination of Jay[...]
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Yesterday, CQ's Jeff Stein reported that the NSA has transcripts of a telephone conversation between Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and unnamed Israeli agents. The recordings show Harman offering the Israelis her efforts to lobby the Justice Department to "reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee," and the Israelis indicating willingness to lobby soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to name Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee. Harman's office released a statement yesterday denying the report. Today, Harman released a letter she wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder, saying she is "outraged" that the NSA wiretapped her conversations and that Holder should release the full NSA transcripts:
I am outraged to learn from reports leaked to the media over the last several days that the FBI or NSA secretly wiretapped my conversations in 2005 or 2006 while I was Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee.
This abuse of power is outrageous and I call on your Department to release all transcripts and other investigative material involving me in an unredacted form. It is my intention to make this material available to the public. [...]
[I]t is entirely appropriate to converse with advocacy organizations and constituent groups, and I am concerned about a chilling effect on other elected officials who may find themselves in my situation.
"Let me be absolutely clear," Harman wrote. "I never contacted the Department of Justice, the White House or anyone else to seek favorable treatment regarding the national security cases on which I was briefed, or any other cases."