Former State Department Lawyer Says Bush Panicked After 9/11, Used Torture

Some former members of the Bush administration are admitting that the Bush administration overreacted to 9/11 by engaging in torture:

A former State Department lawyer responsible for Guantanamo-related cases said Friday that the Bush administration overreacted after 9/11 and set up a system in which torture occurred.

Vijay Padmanabhan is at least the second former Bush administration official to publicly label “enhanced interrogation techniques” as torture. He said the administration was wrong in its entire approach when it sent detainees to the remote Navy base and declared it out of reach of any court.

“I think Guantanamo was one of the worst overreactions of the Bush administration,” Padmanabhan told The Associated Press. He said other overreactions included extraordinary renditions, waterboarding that occurred at secret CIA prisons and “other enhanced interrogation techniques that would constitute torture.”

“The idea that you’re going to be able to hold someone and detain someone where there is not an applicable legal regime governing their detention, rules, treatment, standards, etc. is, I think, foolish,” he said.

He is not the only member of the Bush administration to raise such criticism:

The first Bush administration official to publicly describe these acts as torture, Susan. J. Crawford, is the military official in charge of trying Guantanamo Bay detainees. She said in January that the United States tortured a Saudi detainee in 2002, preventing her from bringing him to trial.

Posted in George Bush, Terrorism. Tags: , . 7 Comments »

Obama Policy On Lobbyists Raising Civil Liberties Concerns

The Politico reports on questions of violations of free speech in the Obama administration’s attempts to reduce the influence of lobbyists:

Free speech advocates from across the political spectrum are accusing President Barack Obama of impinging on First Amendment rights and are gearing up to take their case public.

At issue is an unprecedented directive that Obama — who has long railed against lobbyists as the personification of a corrupt Washington culture — issued last week barring officials charged with doling out stimulus funds from talking to registered lobbyists about specific projects or applicants for stimulus cash.

Under the directive, which began going into effect this week, agency officials are required to begin meetings about stimulus funding for projects by asking whether any party to the conversation is a lobbyist.

“If so, the lobbyist may not attend or participate in the telephonic or in-person contact, but may submit a communication in writing,” reads Obama’s memo, which requires the agencies to post lobbyists’ written communications online.

The rule is intended to prevent stimulus funds from being “distributed on the basis of factors other than the merits of proposed projects or in response to improper influence or pressure,” according to the memo.

While applauding that goal, Michael Macleod-Ball, chief legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and himself a lobbyist, questioned the means, saying, “The question is whether this restriction, as it’s drafted, is the best way to achieve that end with the narrowest amount of limitation on an individual’s rights possible.

“From our perspective, the pretty clear answer is ‘no, it’s not.’”

Next week, the left-leaning ACLU will join with the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the trade group the American League of Lobbyists in sending a letter to the White House protesting the policy, said League President Dave Wenhold.

The article proceedes to describe a defense of this policy given by the Obama adminstration.

Lean Left disagrees that this is a violation of free speech:

How is this a restriction on free speech? Nobody is preventing lobbyists from saying anything they want. But as far as I understand, the First Amendment doesn’t require that anyone has to listen to them. It’s not even a restriction of the rights of the government employees being targeted by the lobbyists: they can talk to lobbyists if they want, also – just not while working in the administration.

This sounds to me like a perfectly ordinary workplace-rules issue. Nobody is guaranteed access to government officials, still less a privileged place in policy-making that affects the entire country, nor are government employees privileged to grant such access if the President says no. Certainly, nobody has a right to demand that they be given such influence just because their employer pays them to do so.

From the right, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a different view:

This procedure sounds a lot like the kinds of questions hookers ask johns to keep from getting busted, under the mistaken notion that a cop has to admit his identity if asked directly to avoid entrapment.  In this case, with loads of cash going to little use, the situation is reversed but still ironically applicable.  The johns now have to ask the hookers whether they’re professionals or amateurs…

I made this point repeatedly during the campaign: lobbying is a Constitutionally protected activity.  Obama (and to an almost equal amount John McCain) made lobbyists a fetish over the last two years.  Hillary Clinton actually made the most sense during that time, noting that most lobbyists perform a necessary task well and without corruption.  People hire lobbyists to pursue their political agendas, a task made more and more necessary the larger and more powerful the federal government becomes.

It is not often writers at Hot Air praise a comment from Hillary Clinton. In doing so I think Ed would realize that it is possible for those on one side of the left/right divide to agree with others from time to time. This should have been kept in mind when he concluded, “When Obama loses the ACLU, well, that should speak volumes.”

It isn’t a case of Obama having or losing the ACLU but that the ACLU supports what they see as the correct position on civil liberties regardless of partisan concerns. I’m sure most ACLU members agree that Obama is far preferable to the Republicans on civil liberties issues but will not blindly follow him when they believe he is wrong. This is not the first time the ACLU has opposed an action of the Obama administration (as in this case) and I suspect it won’t be the last. To say that the Obama lost the ACLU for their disagreement on some cases is like saying that Hillary Clinton has won over Hot Air as a result of  Ed’s post. (This, of course, is really just a way to make this post flow into the discussion in the previous post.)