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February 12, 2009

Deb Burlingame: Obama "uncertain, uninformed... just plain mistaken"

Why are we not surprised? (h/t kbob)

Debra Burlingame, sister of Charles Burlingame III, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 that was flown into the Pentagon on 9/11, was present at last Friday's White House meeting of families of terrorism victims. Her impression was that President Obama was saying the right words in general, but when it came to specifics he was uncertain, uninformed, and sometimes just plain mistaken. Ms. Burlingame is an attorney who has followed closely the legal aspects of the terrorism cases, and her detailed, probing questions were met with stammers, stares, and statements that betrayed an understanding of the law that was, she said, "flat out wrong."

Case in point: the president's knowledge of the role of the Classified Information Procedures Act or CIPA. This law governs the way in which classified information is used in trials. The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to confront their accusers and the evidence against them, but the government has an important interest in cases such as these in keeping sources and methods secret. Under CIPA rules, in cases where classified information is used, the government has the option of sharing the information with the defendant, or not using it.

The Bush administration sought to avoid this potential national security threat by resorting to other procedures in which 6th Amendment issues did not arise. But President Obama believes that the model for terrorism cases is the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. Of course a number of those plotters escaped justice (some were found later hiding in Saddam's Iraq, but that's another story). More important, because of the openness of that process, al Qaeda learned a great deal about how to do a much better job next time - and even the classified information from that trial was in Osama bin Laden's hands within weeks.

The terrorists have learned a great deal about conducting legal guerrilla war, using rules like CIPA to their advantage. Notice that more and more terrorists are dismissing their appointed lawyers and representing themselves. This gives them direct access to the classified documents that will be used in evidence against them. In this way they can learn about U.S. intelligence sources and methods - how they were targeted, what information was collected, and who may have been the traitors in their midst. Even if the names of sources are omitted, for example someone who was present at a key planning meeting, the terrorist defendant will know enough about the circumstances to be able to narrow it down. After all, the terrorist is familiar with every aspect of the events; he knows much more about them than the intelligence community.

The alternative to handing over the secrets is for the government to not use the evidence in question. That creates the incongruous situation in which the defense wants to maximize the amount of evidence that implicates them, and the prosecution wants to minimize it. (Our legal system was not designed to accommodate defendants who welcome being put to death.) According to Ms. Burlingame, Obama's answer to this conundrum was "there is no reason we have to give [the terrorists] everything." Evidently the former editor of the Harvard Law Review seems to think that one of his powers as president is personally to pick and choose which constitutional rights apply to terror defendants and which do not.

At last count, Obama issued no fewer than 10 Executive Orders in the two week period (1/21 - 2/06) immediately after assuming office. That's about a rate of about five orders a week.

No other president has issued so many orders so soon after his inauguration. It strains credulity to believe orders issued so hastily were well considered or thoroughly researched, and Ms. Burlingame's experience underscores exactly the type of critical considerations overlooked when an inexperienced leader decides to deliver "sweeping change" at "warp speed".

One might be forgiven for wondering whether such unseemly haste poses a clear and present danger to our national security, if not a startlingly arrogant exercise of executive power? Where, O where are all those brave patriots who raised the alarum against the vigorous exertion of presidential prerogatives only months ago?

Nowhere to be found, that's where.


Posted by Cassandra at February 12, 2009 09:01 AM

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Comments

I'm amazed that BO showed for the meeting. He has great confidence in his charm doesn't he? So much so that he imagines that he can smile and blather sweet nothings to realign reality. Even for the Cole and 9/11 victims survivors and families.

I'm also so thoroughly disgusted with the performance and direction of the government that I'm going to count to 10 a few million times.

But I will say that if the present trend continues, this government may actually get Jimmy Carter out of history's dog house.

Posted by: bthun at February 12, 2009 12:37 PM

Get Jimmy Carter out of History's doghouse?

What does History have to say about that? :)

Change we can believe in!

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 12, 2009 01:55 PM

The Democrats told us before the election that Obama was going to do a lot of legisltating by EO. I think these were planned out before, and not just made up.

Wikipedia has links to all the EOs. Obamas schedule is: 2 on Jan 21, 3 on Jan 22, 3 on Jan 30, 1 on Feb 5 and 1 on Feb 6.

If he keeps up at that rate, Congress can go home.

This is what I've been looking for (from the WaPo article):

"White House Counsel Greg Craig, often seen whispering in the president's ear during question periods..."

I heard a radio broadcast of an earlier press conference - first the question, then a whispered reply, then Obama repeats the reply.

I think everybody knows that nobody knows everything - not even Obama. But one of the rules of thumb is, if you don't know the answer to a question, don't make something up - say that you'll find out.

bthun may be right. Even if Obama doesn't end up making Carter look good, at least we'll have the same wise and judicious leadership that Carter gave us.

Posted by: ZZMike at February 12, 2009 02:00 PM

Where, O where are all those brave patriots who raised the alarum against the vigorous exertion of presidential prerogatives only months ago?

Nowhere to be found, that's where.

That's just silly, and untrue, and Cassandra undoubtedly knows that.

There are many on the left who have registered (and in quite some detail) their dissatisfaction, dismay and disapprobation with actions (and failures to act) by this newborn administration. One can visit Glenn Greenwald (salon.com) or Darren Hutchinson (dissentingjustice) or The Rachel Maddow Show (e.g., http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29137907/ [search: "secret"]) or DemocracyNow (e.g., http://www.democracynow.org/2009/2/5/despite_celebrated_orders_closing_gitmo_and) or even the New York Times (e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/11/opinion/11wed2.html?sq=ninth%20circuit%20court%20of%20appeals&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=print ), etc, and find criticism aplenty on this issue - the continuation of the Imperial Presidency, as it had been elevated by 43. (And, no, of course; the Imperial Presidency is not a whole-cloth invention of GB - though he and his dark master did strive mightily to perfect it; see, e.g., Bacevitch, A., The Limits of Power)

The Presidential Stables have been filling steadily for eight years now, and it is unsurprising that the new Landlord sees fit to take a swift(-ish) broom to the filth. Would that filth/power itself not tend to corrupt, and would that the brush-strokes be more un-erring and more true. But (and this is meant as no dispensation), the world is sadly otherwise.

Posted by: hoover1 at February 12, 2009 02:01 PM

Glenn Greenwald ????

Holy cow, that's funny, Cabana boy.

Posted by: Mark at February 12, 2009 02:17 PM

His dark master???

Sheesh.

And Glenn isn't unhappy about the blitz of executive orders within such a short time. He's just unhappy that they don't do what he wants them to do :p

I will gladly admit that Greenwald has been more intellectually consistent (though he continues to gloss over things he finds disturbing that happen on the Democratic watch) than most other lefty commentators. But it's pretty amusing for hoover to cite 3 sources against a virtual chorus of outrage during the Bush years. The question is not whether anyone was objected - you can always find someone who will do so.

The question is whether the standards and arguments used with Bush are being applied now that Obama is continuing the same policies. And they're not. Clearly.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 12, 2009 02:48 PM

"Get Jimmy Carter out of History's doghouse?

What does History have to say about that? :)

Change we can believe in! "

I believe! Hallelujah and pass the Zoloft!

I suppose that the future POTUS occupant of history's dog house will depend on who performs the final edit. But I'm fairly certain where I'm going to place my bet. That is if I have anything left to bet after the spend, borrow, spend, print, spend, borrow, spent, rinse, devalue, inflate, repeat cycle makes its way through the next few years.

Posted by: bt_hunkering-down_hun at February 12, 2009 02:51 PM

Ruling by fiat is all fun and games until someone reminds you that you aren't the king.

Oops, did I say fiat? I meant EOs. My bad. So sorry.

Posted by: Cricket at February 12, 2009 03:13 PM

"Oops, did I say fiat?"

Are you sure you didn't mean Renault?
Yugo?
NO! I know!!!
Prius.....yeah, yeah, yeah......that's the ticket!

0>;~}
*snnicker*

Posted by: DL Sly at February 12, 2009 05:05 PM

Bwahahaha!

I am so not ready to write my suicide report. I got some professional confirmation from a PhD and a counselor for my theory, as well as some online journals in sociology that support the connection, however tenuously...

We are having chili over rice, cornbread and the Engineer just made cinnamon buns for dessert. The salad is up to the CLUs, so I am surfing.

Posted by: Cricket at February 12, 2009 07:19 PM

Shrimp creole here :)

I got some professional confirmation from a PhD and a counselor for my theory, as well as some online journals in sociology that support the connection, however tenuously

Good work, Infidel.

Posted by: Moqtada al Sadr at February 12, 2009 07:23 PM

> Ms. Burlingame is an attorney who has followed closely the legal aspects of the terrorism cases, and her detailed, probing questions were met with stammers, stares, and statements that betrayed an understanding of the law that was, she said, "flat out wrong."

But... but... Obama is a "Constitutional" lawyer...!!!

Surely he has a full and complete understanding of the pros and cons of this issue...!!!?!?!?

:-S

Posted by: Obloodyhell at February 12, 2009 08:35 PM

> But I will say that if the present trend continues, this government may actually get Jimmy Carter out of history's dog house.

Bthun, I am ON record as predicting he would do precisely that, if elected, as soon as he secured the nomination.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at February 12, 2009 09:06 PM

I'll tell ya OBH, more than one Jimmy Carter per adult lifetime just has to violate Amendment VIII -specifically the Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause...

I swear I'd take up drinking, if I hadn't already.

Posted by: bthun at February 12, 2009 09:27 PM

> There are many on the left who have registered (and in quite some detail) their dissatisfaction, dismay and disapprobation with actions (and failures to act) by this newborn administration.

Who-who-whoover???

Not the LATimes, who happily report:

Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, President Obama's choice to represent his administration before the Supreme Court, told a key Republican senator Tuesday that she believed the government could hold suspected terrorists without trial as war prisoners.

And certainly not the leftist whores over at Human Rights Watch:
"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "What I heard loud and clear from the president's order was that they want to design a system that doesn't result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured -- but that designing that system is going to take some time."

Examples courtesy Carl over at No Oil For Pacifists...

The fact is, the Left only gave a rat's ass about either extraordinary rendition OR surveillance when it was the GOP in charge of it. When Clinton and Gore were in charge, it was "Huh? What rendition, what surveillance you talkin' 'bout, Willis?"

Along comes Bush and "THE SKY IS FALLING!!!"

Now that a Dem's back in charge again, we have our "Yogi Demma" moment -- it's "deja vu all over again".

Posted by: Obloodyhell at February 12, 2009 09:35 PM

Oh, and if you want to hear what kind of crap HRW had to say about rendition under Bush, check out the whole article over at NOfP.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at February 12, 2009 09:45 PM

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