U.S. conventional wisdom today: burning books is inflammatory and requires personal condemnation from the highest levels of government. That same government giving the thumbs up to genital mutilation as a sacrifice to the Security Gods? No big deal:
A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information.The sharply divided ruling was a major victory for the Obama administration’s efforts to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy powers. It strengthens the White House’s hand as it has pushed an array of assertive counter-terrorism policies, while raising an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule for the first time in decades on the scope of the president’s power to restrict litigation that could reveal state secrets. (emphasis mine)
By now, the tact of claiming that the presidency endows you with the awesome power of rendering damn near everything a vital national security secret Because I Said So is so rote that papers might as well just make Madlibs templates out of these kind of articles. Every “executive” claims sweeping secrecy powers. It’s part of the nature of people who seek that office in the first place, and if they suggest otherwise prior to election, it is a lie. You can set your watch to it.
There are a few amusing notes within this though. For one, take the time period of the torture in this specific case. If Obama had wanted to, he could’ve had his administration stand aside and let this crap just all fall on Bush, even while continuing to hide their own secrets. After all, the charm in “black sites” is you can always set up different ones. So, why scream “state secrets!” over what the previous guy did? This gets much clearer when you stop thinking of it in terms of Dem vs GOP, and start thinking of it as an internal matter of The Brotherhood of the Traveling Atrocities. Letting the dirty laundry of the last occupant air out opens you up for the same treatment down the line, and if it goes on long enough people could get the silly idea to point at the institution itself & in their best Jamie Hyneman voice say “now THERE’S your problem!”.
Besides the demonstration of institutional solidarity, there’s also our old friend corporatism: the target of the suit was a Boeing subsidiary, apparently having arranged the rendition flights. I can’t help but wonder how much money they got for it.
Let’s complete the cycle, shall we?
“This case requires us to address the difficult balance the state secrets doctrine strikes between fundamental principles of our liberty, including justice, transparency, accountability and national security,” Judge Fisher [of the 9th Circuit Appeals Court] wrote. “Although as judges we strive to honor all of these principles, there are times when exceptional circumstances create an irreconcilable conflict between them.”
Ben Wizner, a senior A.C.L.U. lawyer who argued the case before the appeals court, said the group was disappointed in the ruling.
“To this date, not a single victim of the Bush administration’s torture program has had his day in court,” Mr. Wizner said. “That makes this a sad day not only for the torture survivors who are seeking justice in this case, but for all Americans who care about the rule of law and our nation’s reputation in the world. If this decision stands, the United States will have closed its courts to torture victims while providing complete immunity to their torturers.”
Institutional bankruptcy? Check. Corporate complicity? Check. Example of the hollowness of American Exceptionalism, sealed with a statement of eloquently worded capitulating Bullshit? Check-mate!