Obama: One step forward, ten steps back

In May, I wrote a post about how Obama reversed his own policy and decided not to release photos that depicted the torture of detainees at prisons other than Abu Ghraib. Obama said releasing the photos would endanger The Troops for little reason because, and I quote, “I want to emphasise that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.”

So, Obama pushed the issue back to the courts, and asked them to review whether or not the photos really had to be released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). But since he’s likely to lose that court battle, he’s trying to retroactively change the law to stop the release of any “photograph taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.”

This from a President that “committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history.” I guess that was a lie and maybe these photos are more sensational than Obama alleges.

Greenwald puts this fight over the photos in context:

What makes all of this even worse is that it is part of a broader trend whereby the Government simply retroactively changes the law whenever it decides it does not want to abide by it.  For decades, we had laws in place authorizing citizens to sue their telecommunication carriers if the telecoms allowed government spying on their communications in violation of the law, but when it was revealed that the telecoms did exactly this, the Congress simply changed the law retroactively so that it no longer applied.  For decades, we had laws imposing civil and criminal liability on government officials who engaged in or authorized torture, but when it was revealed that our government did that, the Congress just retroactively changed the law to protect the torturers.  And now that courts have ruled that our decades-old transparency law compels disclosure of this torture evidence, the Congress is just going to retroactively change the law — again — this time to empower the President to suppress that evidence anyway.

Other than creating an illusion of transparency and accountability, what’s the point of having laws that purport to restrict what the Government can do if political officials just retroactively waive those laws whenever they want?

As Hitchen’s and Sullivan are fond of saying, Torture Poisons Everything. Obama is going to great lengths to cover the ass of Torturer-in-Chief George W. Bush and his sidekick Dick Cheney. Along the way, Obama is creating dangerous precedents that threaten the very nature of our democracy. Democratic government requires transparency. Otherwise citizens can’t make informed decisions about the direction of their country or its leadership.


  1. Biff

    As good members in standing of the Democratic Party of America I’m sure we all want to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt and enough time to implement the progressive plans that I’m sure reside in His heart of hearts. Besides, the repububthuglicans would have field day if President Obama released the photos and it would be bad publicity for us with the rest of the world.

    I’m sure President Obama has a progressive plan to release the photos as soon as it’s safe to do so. We just have to hope and be patient and realistic and trust in Him. You have to remember that the Senate and House and the government is working against President Obama on this issue. It isn’t realistic to hope for governmental change in a few short years. I’m sure that by 2012 or 2014 or at least 2020 this issue with be resolved but until then it isn’t realistic and we should all just hope for change like good democrats and shut up.

  2. Ian

    I don’t understand this guy’s trolling. Its like he doesn’t understand his audience. Guess I admire his effort…

  3. Jordan M

    I don’t think people will find it that bad. 24, the ballsmacking scene in Casino Royale, etc We’re probably desensitized enough where most folks will see them, shrug, and go one about their day. Better to rip the Band-Aid off than let the wound fester. ‘Hey world, we fucked up, we’re sorry’.