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Where's That Change We Can Believe In?

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June 16, 2010

Last night on The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart called President Obama out on his flip-flopped positions on national security policies that Candidate Obama rejected during his presidential campaign.

Revisiting moments from the campaign trail, The Daily Show reminds us when, in November of 2007, then-Senator Obama stated: “Guantánamo — that’s easy — close down Guantánamo, restore habeas corpus, say no to renditions…” He went on to state, “Part of my job as the next President is to break the fever of fear that has been exploited by this administration.”

In reality, the Obama administration has continued, and in some cases expanded Bush administration national security policies that are inconsistent with basic human rights and liberties guaranteed under the Constitution.

And Jon Stewart isn’t the only one taking notice.

Editorials that appear in The New York Times and Washington Post today assert strong positions on the Obama administration’s mishandling of two particular cases.

As we told you earlier this week, the Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the case of extraordinary rendition and torture victim, Maher Arar, a Canadian who was apprehended during a layover at JFK and subsequently sent to Syria for over 10 months where he was confined in an underground grave-like cell and tortured. The Times writes:

The Supreme Court’s refusal to consider the claims of Maher Arar, an innocent Canadian who was sent to Syria to be tortured in 2002, was a bitterly disappointing abdication of its duty to hold officials accountable for illegal acts. The Bush administration sent Mr. Arar to outsourced torment, but it was the Obama administration that urged this course of inaction…Amazingly, Mr. Obama’s acting solicitor general, Neal Katyal, urged the Supreme Court not to take the case, arguing in part that the court should not investigate the communications between the United States and other countries because it might damage diplomatic relations and affect national security… The Supreme Court’s action was disgraceful, but it had stepped away twice before from cases of torture victims. There is no excuse for the Obama administration’s conduct. It should demonstrate some moral authority by helping Canada’s investigation, apologizing to Mr. Arar and writing him a check.

The Washington Post opines on the case of Mohamed Mohamed Hassan Odaini, a 26-year-old Yemeni who was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and has been detained at Guantánamo ever since. The editorial, entitled, “Meet one Gitmo inmate who can’t be described as ‘the worst of the worst’” reports on a court order made public last week in Odaini’s case in which Judge Kennedy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia writes that the government has “kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age eighteen to age twenty-six…They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career. The evidence before the Court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure.” Ultimately, the court found no evidence tying Odaini to Al Qaeda, “emphatically” concluding that Odaini be release. The Post writes:

Yet Mr. Odaini may not soon see freedom. The Obama administration stopped all detainee transfers to Yemen after the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner by a man who received terrorist training in Yemen. This freeze generally is sensible, given that the Yemeni government is probably incapable of keeping tabs on detainees who do pose a risk. But the administration should consider making an exception for Mr. Odaini, a young man from what is believed to be a good family and whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Alternatively, officials should do everything in their power to find a suitable third country. Whatever the approach, the administration must correct this injustice.

As Jon Stewart reminded us, it was Candidate Obama who once said: “No more ignoring the law when it’s inconvenient. That is not who we are…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.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.