President Barack Obama seems to believe that he can do one thing, and say another thing, and nobody will notice the difference.
Yesterday morning, President Obama sent out a memo on government transparency that began with the following paragraph:
“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
Yesterday afternoon, President Obama sent his lawyers out to declare his assertion that the President of the United States has the right to withhold evidence from a trial when the President declares that the information is a state secret. President Obama is arguing, exactly as George W. Bush did before him, that the President’s right to withhold evidence cannot be questioned – not even by a judge who reviews the information in secret.
In the morning, Barack Obama promised transparency and open government. In the afternoon, Barack Obama declared that he will keep secrets from the American people about what he does, and he doesn’t have to explain to anyone why he’s doing it.
The context: A lawsuit by people who were kidnapped by the American government and tortured – without ever being charged with a crime.
If these people cannot even have the right to sue for compensation for what was done to them, then how can we say that the United States of America is a free country? If the President is to be allowed to have the power to deny the right of people to sue the government – without even having to justify the injustice – what distinguishes the President from a dictator?
When George W. Bush claimed this totalitarian power, Democrats criticized him sharply. Will Democrats now be silent, just because it’s Barack Obama who is claiming the same totalitarian power?
Anthony Romero, of the American Civil Liberties Union stated yesterday,
“Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again.”
Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote:
“I could not be more disappointed: In its first real case, the Obama administration has chosen to continue the Bush administration’s policy of secrecy before justice despite all the uplifting rhetoric about transparency.”
President Barack Obama has made me ashamed that I ever supported his candidacy. He has shown that he is incapable of keeping a promise made in the morning even until the end of the day. He has violated our trust, and he has earned our principled opposition.