Dawn Johnsen and the Obama administration

Glenn Greenwald has a eye-opening and enlightening post concerning the Obama administration’s of its own nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the OLC, the Office of Legal Councel,

“The OLC opinions were intended to provide legal cover for what everyone knew was illegal conduct. They advised the establishment of the prison at Guantanamo outside the law through the purposeful evasion of the Geneva Conventions and they advised the creation of a secret detention network for “enhanced interrogations” in flagrant violation of domestic and international law. Once unthinkable, they authorized and justified torture, rendition and secret CIA detention, often in a hands-on manner so detailed that it gives the lie to the notion they were giving abstract legal advice rather than making policy decisions to use torture”

writes the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Greenwald writes:

As I documented at length when the nomination was first announced in January, 2009, Johnsen was an absolutely superb pick to head an office that plays as vital a role as any in determining the President’s record on civil liberties and adherence to the rule of law.

And further:

virtually everything that Dawn Johnsen said about executive power, secrecy, the rule of law and accountability for past crimes made her an excellent fit for what Candidate Obama said he would do, but an awful fit for what President Obama has done.

And he goes on to quote Johnsen:

The question how we restore our nation’s honor takes on new urgency and promise as we approach the end of this administration. We must resist Bush administration efforts to hide evidence of its wrongdoing through demands for retroactive immunity, assertions of state privilege, and implausible claims that openness will empower terrorists. . . .

Here is a partial answer to my own question of how should we behave, directed especially to the next president and members of his or her administration but also to all of use who will be relieved by the change: We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation’s past transgressions and reject Bush’s corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation’s honor be restored without full disclosure.

The point is that despite her impeccable qualifications to head the OLC and despite the fact that her opinions dovetailed with Candidate Obama’s opinions regarding the rule of law, her nomination was left to languish. The conclusion that seems to be obvious and unavoidable is that President Obama is not interested in changing course from the Bush/Cheney administration’s practive of asserting overarching executive power, using secrecy, and jailings of indeterminate length, nor of pursuing accountability regarding possible violations of the law by the Bysh/Cheney administration.

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