Dispatches from the Creation Wars

In an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama offered a transparently lame justification for his administration’s constant use of the state secrets privilege:

People will say, “I don’t know — you’ve got your Justice Department out there that’s still using the state-secrets doctrine to defend against some of these previous actions.” Well, I gave very specific instructions to the Department of Justice. What I’ve said is that we are not going to use a shroud of secrecy to excuse illegal behavior on our part. On the other hand, there are occasions where I’ve got to protect operatives in the field, their sources and their methods, because if those were revealed in open court, they could be subject to very great danger. There are going to be circumstances in which, yes, I can’t have every operation that we’re engaged in to deal with a very real terrorist threat published in Rolling Stone.


The problem is the straw man in the very first sentence. The problem isn’t that Obama is invoking the state secrets privilege in some of the cases filed against the executive branch for violating statutory law and/or the constitution in its pursuit of the war on terror; the problem is that he is invoking that privilege in every single case ever filed in that area.

That “new policy” put out by the DOJ to govern use of the state secrets privilege was little more than a bad joke. It could have been summarized quite accurately as “trust us, we will only use our powers for good.” Which might be a credible claim if there was even a single case that had been filed against Bush or Obama in which they did not invoke the SSP and demand that the case be dismissed.

It might also be more credible if Obama had not publicly said that he thinks the privilege should be more narrow, that judges should be able to hear a case and deal with classified evidence with more narrow means of protecting them. But that is precisely what the judge did in the Jeppesen Dataplan case and Obama appealed it and got that ruling overturned.

This claim that they’re not using the SSP to cover up illegal behavior is clearly a lie. Torture is illegal in this country, yet Obama is invoking the SSP to have every case filed by a victim of torture dismissed. Warrantless wiretaps are illegal in this country, yet Obama is invoking the SSP to have every case filed by anyone who has been the target of that illegal activity dismissed.

Obama is lying. It’s that simple.