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By Tom Parker, Policy Director, (Counter) Terrorism and Human Rights

100 days have come and gone with all the accompanying media hoopla but it increasingly seems like President Obama’s first 24 hours represented the high water mark of his commitment to rolling back the human rights abuses committed by the Bush administration.

The past week has seen still further blows to campaigners’ hopes that the Obama administration would place traditional American values of accountability and the rule of law at the heart of their response to the ongoing terrorist threat.

Leaks from the Department of Justice suggest that former Bush administration lawyers Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury are unlikely to face significant disciplinary action – let alone criminal charges – for their role in designing the coercive interrogation practices introduced to military and CIA detention facilities around the world in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

These latter day Tom Hagen’s were asked by the White House to cloak the Bush administration’s illegal innovation in a mantle of legitimacy. In doing so, they were not acting in good faith. Rather, like Michael Corleone’s tame lawyer, they were actively engaged in a criminal conspiracy to circumvent U.S. law.

I have been baffled by the argument that criminal charges would produce a chilling effect on lawyers asked to provide legal advice to the executive. Is this really such a bad thing? The whole point of having in-house legal counsels is to make sure the government stays within the boundaries of the law. Government lawyers should be cautious.

Also worrying are fresh leaks from inside the administration that suggest the President is seriously considering reactivating the Military Commissions put on hold when he came into office. These are the same Commissions that the President denounced on the campaign trail as "an enormous failure."

Should the President decide to abandon a campaign pledge to "reject" the Military Commissions Act, he will be breathing life into a court system with the fewest rights for suspects of any court in the western world. His first instinct was right - we should not bastardize our judicial system to accommodate illegal practices that should have never been countenanced in the first place.

This morning John McCain and Lindsay Graham published an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal in which they note that 1 in 10 of the individuals released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield. This also means that 9 out of 10 have not.

The detainees in Guantanamo were supposed to be the worst of the worst but it turns out that 9 times out of 10 our intelligence professionals got the wrong man. The Military Commissions will take the assertions of these same professionals at face value and accord them the weight of evidence.

If the Military Commissions are reinstated we can look forward to many more miscarriages of justice. If you think this is a price worth paying for greater security, consider the damage that the cases of the Guilford Four and Birmingham Six did to the reputation of British justice.

The Obama administration is posed to go down a path that will repeat many of the mistakes of the past eight years. This is a time for moral courage not moral compromise. We can do better and we need to make sure that this White House hears that message.

Originally posted to Amnesty International USA on Wed May 06, 2009 at 01:32 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  watch out (6+ / 0-)

    soon you will be hearing from those folks who say it's all part of obama's genius-level chess-playing abilities.

  •  What you said! n/t (5+ / 0-)

    "History is a tragedy, not a melodrama." - I.F.Stone

    by bigchin on Wed May 06, 2009 at 01:43:39 PM PDT

  •  this direction that we are headed (0+ / 0-)

    is doomed to ultimate failure.

    The occupation of Iraq will not be disrupted. - Chris Hedges 3/2/09

    by dancewater on Wed May 06, 2009 at 03:35:44 PM PDT

  •  Admit, please, that what this is really about... (0+ / 0-) that Amnesty USA's fundraising (direct mail, telemarketing, online donations, etc.) have dried up since the new administration came in, and this is a desperate lunge to try and make your ineffective work seem important to a few suckers willing to part with their money if you tell them, as you have in previous diaries, that "Obama = Cheney."

    Just remember that there are even many people born every minute who are not suckers for such transparently manipulative appeals to the gullible.

    •  Write a rebuttal diary or comment then. (0+ / 0-)

      I support Obama, but do think the pressure needs to remain on his admin regarding these Bush era practices. I don't see this diary as a rhetorical attack, but rather information. If you think it's distorted or not providing the full picture, inform us factually otherwise.

      And there's nothing wrong with contributing to Amnesty Intl., they do great work.

      Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

      by doinaheckuvanutjob on Wed May 06, 2009 at 03:55:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would urge you to read (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...this diarist's past entires, like this one, in which he says Obama "looks like Cheney to me."

        Also, you should be aware that Amnesty International USA, while affiliated with the global organization, is technically a separate organization from the Amnesty International headquartered in London whose work people are more familiar with. And if you read the discussion thread on the link I just gave you, you'll see a discussion there of the terribly inept and sabotaging work Amnesty USA has done in this hemisphere.

        The diarist is a Johnny-One-Note on this theme, to the point of obsessive. Follow the money (or the sudden lack of it) to understand why.

        •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

          at a cursory glance at the links, I don't see anything to cause concern. I'll have to read further to find what you're referring to, but am willing to view these diaries with a closer skeptical eye for what you are talking about.

          Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

          by doinaheckuvanutjob on Wed May 06, 2009 at 04:27:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Three points of clarification (0+ / 0-)

    The comments posted by The Field require some clarification: 1) I did not write the article to which he posted a link - a number of amnesty staff contribute to this diary page and my comments are all signed by name; 2) Amnesty USA is an integral part of the Amnesty movement and the organization's policies are set by the International Section based in London -you can see their latest report on the first 100 Days of the Obama Administration at 3) Sadly, being a "one note Johnny" is part of the job description since I am after all the Policy Director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights. If you are not somewhat concerned by this administration's record to date on human rights in the context of the war on terror then frankly you haven't been paying attention.

    •  Great job, Tom (0+ / 0-)

      Do not pay much attention to those who keep bringing up now ancient canards to steer the direction away from the main point.

      This is a serious issue, and I wish I'd seen this diary in time to recommend. I'm going to post on the same thing.

      War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

      by Valtin on Sat May 09, 2009 at 03:27:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Like Valtin, I didn't see this diary... (0+ / 0-)

      ... till long after the fact. But I just wanted to say that despite the grief you might get from The Field or others, he's in the minority. I'm still hoping for the best where Obama is concerned, but I'm getting pretty frustrated. And so the fact remains that we've known you -- Amnesty International, I mean -- for FAR longer than we've known Barack Obama. And so if we're ever, sadly, forced into taking one's word over the other, I'd trust AI over Obama. Sorry, but that's how I feel.

      "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media." -- Noam Chomsky

      by ratmach on Fri May 15, 2009 at 07:34:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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