During the Presidential campaign, Barack Obama attacked the Bush administration for its abuse of the state secrets privilege. The Bush administration was the first to argue that cases could be dismissed entirely because they would require the disclosure of state secrets — previously that privilege could be used to suppress certain sensitive evidence, but not to toss out a case entirely.
And yet, when President Obama took office, his administration continued to use the policy exactly as the Bush administration had, much to the chagrin of civil rights activists.
Last night, Time magazine’s Michael Scherer asked Obama to address the discrepancy between his campaign position and the position his administration has taken. Dan Froomkin has the full question and answer. This alone was a huge win — now Obama is on the record with his position on state secrets.
As it turns out, Obama’s answer was deficient and somewhat dishonest, see Glenn Greenwald’s analysis for more. At least now, though, we’re having a conversation. Obama has taken a position, that position is somewhat at odds with reality, and so we can see how those reality and that position are reconciled as time goes on.