During Transition, Obama “Signaled” Endorsement of Bush Secret ProgramsPosted: September 1, 2011
In a 2007 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Obama promised to roll back the secret programs put in place by Bush and restore civil liberties and respect for the Constitution. Here’s an excerpt:
This [Bush] Administration…puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom.
That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.
This [Bush] Administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. There are no short-cuts to protecting America, and that is why the fifth part of my strategy is doing the hard and patient work to secure a more resilient homeland.
But since Obama took office, his Justice Department has defended every Bush/Cheney policy and refused to hold any Bush administration or CIA officials accountable for torture, rendition, and illegal spying on Americans. Obama has instead gone even further, claiming the right to assassinate American citizens on the sole authority of the President.
The new season of PBS Frontline begins next Tuesday with a bang. The show is part of Frontline’s collaboration with the Washington Post in an investigative project called Top Secret America.
Today Frontline posted some teasers for the show, one of which I found unsurprising but still very important.
FRONTLINE has learned from a former high-ranking CIA official that even before he took office, Obama’s team “signaled” they had no intention of rolling back secret programs begun under the Bush administration. In his first televised interview, for next Tuesday’s Top Secret America John Rizzo, a 34-year agency veteran described as “the most influential lawyer in CIA history,” tells FRONTLINE:
I was part of the transition briefings of the incoming Obama team, and they signaled fairly early on that the incoming president believed in a vigorous, aggressive, continuing counterterrorism effort. Although they never said it exactly, it was clear that the interrogation program was going away. We all knew that.
But his people were signaling to us, I think partly to try to assure us that they weren’t going to come in and dismantle the place, that they were going to be just as tough, if not tougher, than the Bush people….
With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration.
You can watch part of the interview at the Frontline link.