Strong opinions, weakly held

Obama abandons habeas corpus

One of the biggest reasons I supported Barack Obama was the stand he was willing to take as a candidate against the worst excesses of the Bush administration in prosecuting the war on terror. As such, it is incredibly disappointing to me to see that as President, he is not living up to the principles he espoused before the election.

Glenn Greenwald reports on the Obama administration’s embrace of the Bush administration’s assertion that the prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan is somehow different than Gitmo, and that detainees held there do not have the right to habeas corpus.

What are folks like Marty Lederman up to over there? If the Obama administration persists in these policies, I’d hope to see some very public resignations sooner rather than later.


  1. He’s not living up to some of the principles. I know it may sound like splitting hairs and this stance is indeed disappointing to say the least.

  2. Yes, what pains me the most is that he is scrupulous about keeping most of the promises he made as a candidate. Just not the ones that are most important to me.

  3. I would have to read more on this, but I’m not certain that Bagram and Gitmo are the same. The US has actually invaded Afghanistan, whereas Gitmo is not in a war zone.

    I feel pretty certain that the transporting of prisoners to Bagram from foreign countries is pretty iffy, but I think this is probably more about the capacity to detain people from and in an actual ‘war zone’.

    However, that probably means they should be declared ‘Prisoners of War’, not enemy combatants or whatever new term to avoid Geneva Conventions has been used.

    I suspect the real problem here is they are in a legal quagmire created by the former administration, and are in the ‘too many trees in this forest’ kind of mentality. Unfortunately, from where we stand it certainly appears they are not navigating that quagmire incorrectly. I suppose only time will tell.

  4. I read a comment before the election about Barrack Obama somewhere that said, “He’ll surprise a lot of his critics and disappoint some of his followers.”

    I think that’s been pretty true up to this point.

  5. There are lots of things I am willing to be patient about. Habeus corpus is not one of those things. The whole point of the court system is to bring sunlight to dark places; to investigate injustice; to be independent of the legislature and the executive and to provide a check to them. Every day that passes that an imprisoned person does not receive their due habeus rights is a day that does grave violence to justice. Period.

    Obama is doing this because it would be very difficult, distracting, and embarrassing to bring these cases into court and admit what America did to these people (guilty or innocent). I understand that. But it is still wrong. It is still the gravest injustice you can commit short of torture or murder to deny another human being the right to protest their imprisonment.

  6. Well said. I hold out hope that Obama will do the right thing in time, but every minute between now and then is a minute of injustice. And part of getting the right thing to happen is to make it more painful to do the wrong thing than the right thing. That demands vociferous protest from Obama’s supporters.

  7. what pains me the most is that he is scrupulous about keeping most of the promises he made as a candidate.

    What promises are those?

    All I can think of is stem cell research, a total softball.

    The stuff that matters, labor, environment, banking reform, Iraq, etc., he’s done nothing that’s substantially different from what John McCain would have done.

    2008 is shaping up to be one of the least consequential elections in American history. Obama is revealing himself as the black Millard Fillmore.

  8. Very well put, Rafe and Jacob.

  9. I think Obama has so far been doing a good job. It is impossible to expect him to right every wrong immediately in this wounded society of ours, where a very small self-interested minority has produced what amounts to an industrial production of lies for the past few decades.

    He’s done good work on everything he has been able to affect so far, with the exception of the bank bailouts which I still think are way off in the weeds. But he’s done some good things, and I truly believe he means well.

    But there are some wrongs that are worse than others, and righting those wrongs cannot wait until the time is convenient. Imprisonment of foreign citizens without due process and without habeus rights is one of those. So every day that passes is another scar on his record and on our country. I have faith that he will do what is right, and soon, but the pressure needs to be kept on him for that to happen, even if we think he is otherwise doing a decent job. That’s all.

  10. To tell you the, “why”. Our constitution defines us as Americans, different from other peoples of the world, with the idea that we have rights as given to us by our creator, not by men. This applies to everyone, everywhere and is reflected in our general approach of, “treat others how you would like to be treated“. I don’t know about you, but I was taught that as an American we are to treat everyone as having the same rights as we claim to have. To do otherwise is to create a sub-class of people, much like the helots of the ancient world. For Americans, there is no middle sub-class of people. A person is either free and has the rights as given to them by their creator -or they are prisoners – criminal or of war, yet they still have rights. A POW or any prisoner is not an animal or livestock. When a person is treated as an animal or livestock, they become slaves and property or simply an, “it” without rights. This type of thinking is wrong, it is not how I was taught Americans were supposed to treat other human beings. The torture & other bad ways of treating people (such as denial of habeas corpus, simply due to location) is wrong and should be stopped. Or are we really no different than the many tyrants and terrorist we claim to be opposed to? I should hope not.

  11. just for the record, for those asking just what good stuff Obama has done, I collected a heap of it (from the first week, no less) here

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