Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Obama Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel releases more Bush II administration war on terror documents


Washington D.C.--You wanted change? You're getting it, today. This is a switch--even for the incoming administration: the release of more key Justice Department legal documents from the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11th, 2001, and they're eye-openers.

The Obama Justice Department has made available a series of key legal memos crafted byt eh Bush II administration that cover the power of the office of president to declare war, "Congressional Authority over Captured Enemy Combatants," the legality of torture, "Interpreting FISA and its Applicability to Presidential Authority," "Presidential Authority to Suspend Treaties" (curiously, ABM ones in one case), " 'National Self-Defense' as a Justification for Warrantless Searches," and so on.

The Obama Justice Department has made their stance on these questionable legal opinions of the Bush II Justice Department crystal clear:
For all the foregoing reasons, the propositions highlighted in the nine opinions identified above do not reflect the current views of the Office of Legal Counsel and should not be treated as authoritative for any purpose. A number of the opinions that contained these propositions have been withdrawn or superseded and do not constitute precedents of this Office; caution should be exercised before relying in other respects on the remaining opinions.

We have advised the Attorney General, the Counsel to the President, the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, the Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Department of Defense, and appropriate offices in the Department of Justice of these conclusions. ("Office of Legal Counsel Memoranda," DOJ.gov, 0303.2009)
Here's what this writer finds most interesting: the opinions by the OLC were made just five days before the Obama administration came into office on January 20, 2009! In short, these decisions were likely being withheld from release by the outgoing Bush II administration and this week's release indicates the decisions were all but predetermined by the incoming administration for potential release. In other words, the Bush II administration was doing some back-peddling in their legal assertions at the tail-end.

That it took a little over a month for the Obama administration's Attorney General to releases them is a very tangible change considering these memos were suppressed by the Bush II administration for years. Say what you want--that it's "not enough," that it's "belated" (for whom?), and that we "won't be seeing much more of this," but it doesn't matter. It's real, and it happened, and more is coming. So far, it doesn't appear that the Obama administration have ruled on the findings of the OLC, but it's likely that they will concur with them in their own decisions.

Maybe it's just a start, but it's one of the best starts we've seen in at least three decades (if not more), and it's happening almost overnight. Patience has its own rewards, but keep demanding more of this, don't ask, and do tell.

"Office of Legal Counsel Memoranda," DOJ.gov, 0303.2009: