Blog of Rights


The Obama Administration, Guantánamo, and Restoring America’s Standing

By Glenn Greenwald at 3:23pm

Last week, Barack Obama was interviewed by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes and the following exchange occurred:

Kroft: There are a number of different things that you could do early pertaining to executive orders. One of them is to shutdown Guantanamo Bay. Another is to change interrogation methods that are used by U.S. troops. Are those things that you plan to take early action on?

Obama: Yes. I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture. And I’m gonna make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.
Obama’s statement was widely celebrated as evidence that he intends to act swiftly and decisively to end the Bush administration’s most controversial detention and interrogation policies. But that reaction overstates the meaning and importance of what Obama actually said.

Obama’s response to the question that was asked was perfectly satisfactory as far as it went. He was asked whether he intends to close Guantanamo and “change interrogation methods” and he answered “yes” to both. It would have been rather shocking if he had answered any other way. Could one even imagine Obama proclaiming that he intends to leave Guantanamo open or that he intends to leave unchanged Bush’s interrogation programs?

Constitution Day and the Conventions: A Glaring Contrast

By Glenn Greenwald at 1:55pm
Presidential nominating conventions enjoy icon status in American political culture. Images of intense floor fights, protests outside convention halls, vigorous intra-party debates over policies, platforms and strategies, and occasionally even physical confrontation — as when Dan Rather was famously punched while reporting from the floor of the 1968 Democratic Convention — have all traditionally symbolized the vibrant and sometimes disorderly and tumultuous clash of ideas that fuel any healthy democracy, and in particular serve as an important reminder of the fruits of the free speech and free assembly rights which the Founders guaranteed in the First Amendment. Conventions are, at least in theory, a once-every-four-years opportunity for Americans to assemble and debate critical issues as they select the standard-bearer for their political party.

But such democratic energy and free-wheeling political debate at conventions is now confined to the distant past, part of our national lore but not our current reality. For the last two decades, political conventions have become, by design, far more akin to meticulously choreographed television spectacles than democratic venues in which political disputes are vented and resolved. Inside the convention halls, spontaneous moments, let alone unscripted expressions of unapproved viewpoints, long ago ceased to exist. Those have been replaced by campaign-approved scripts, scheduled down to the last word and second in accordance with poll-tested themes and the prime-time television schedule.

During the last several nominating conventions, the areas outside the convention hall have become increasingly subject to the same degree of micro-control as events on the inside. With each convention, the physical area of extreme control expands to a larger and larger perimeter. Justified by resort to the same rationale used to suppress liberties in general — vague invocations of "security" — both political parties are now able to relegate dissent, protests and disruptions to unseen and highly controlled environments, far removed from the conventions themselves and far out of sight from delegates, political figures, and the establishment media outlets which televises the convention.

Is Retroactive Telecom Immunity Unconstitutional?

By Glenn Greenwald at 11:46am

When Congress enacted and the President signed into law the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, some of the nation's largest telecommunications companies were given an extraordinary gift: full-scale immunity from the pending lawsuits brought by their customers,…

Glenn Greenwald: Growing Responsibility for the Bush Torture Regime

By Glenn Greenwald at 1:04pm

By Glenn Greenwald,

Recent ACLU-compelled disclosures of previously concealed DOJ documents reveal many of the details of what has been long known: that the highest levels of the Bush administration secretly implemented an illegal…

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