Thursday, September 09, 2010

The administration wins two victories in the federal appeals courts. One is a judicial horror; the other may just be a temporary reprieve


You can relax, George. The guy who succeeded you in the Oval Office doesn't seem to care whether we did or we didn't.

by Ken

Administration apologists register horror anytime we complain how difficult it can be on an alarming range of issues to distinguish this administration from its predecessor. The hotly contested 6-5 ruling yesterday by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that a group of former U.S. detainees who say they were victims of rendition-for-torture can't sue a Boeing subsidiary for its claimed complicity is a horror that reminds us of several important areas in which the Obama administration is as bad as, if not worse than, the Bush regime: its adamant refusal to hold American torturers to legal account, an if anything greater insistence on the government's right to secrecy at its own discretion, and an every bit as unchecked resort to "national security" to cover up, well, anything it wishes to cover up.

The case was brought by the ACLU on the plaintiffs' behalf, and the ACLU says it will appeal to the Supreme Court. Yesterday's decision overturns an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit which would have allowed the suit to proceed. The new legal doctrine takes a breathtaking step beyond previous "national security"-based trial restrictions, which have allowed limitations on kinds of evidence that can be introduced on court on national-security grounds. It's new law that defendants may lose their right to pursue a legal grievance because the case may bump up against national-security concerns.

As the NYT's Charlie Savage reported:
While the alleged abuses occurred during the Bush administration, the ruling added a chapter to the Obama administration’s aggressive national security policies.

Its counterterrorism programs have in some ways departed from the expectations of change fostered by President Obama’s campaign rhetoric, which was often sharply critical of former President George W. Bush’s approach.

Among other policies, the Obama national security team has also authorized the C.I.A. to try to kill a United States citizen suspected of terrorism ties, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the basis for their imprisonment without trial, and continued the C.I.A.’s so-called extraordinary rendition program of prisoner transfers — though the administration has forbidden torture and says it seeks assurances from other countries that detainees will not be mistreated.


The other major appeals court ruling, the decision today of a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court to lift the temporary injunction that drastically curtailed stem-cell research issued on August 23 by District Judge Royce Lamberth, on appeal by the Obama administration, finds it on happier ground.

True, the Obama administration may have fatally bungled its original reversal of the Bush regime's draconian restrictions on stem-cell research, since the executive order issued by the president does seem to have pretty directly violated a law on the books that barred federal money being used for research that involved the destruction of human embryos. And the administration is a long way from out of the woods on this front. As Rob Stein and Spencer S. Hsu report in the Washington Post:
While the move was praised by advocates for the research, the appeals court made it clear it was not making a final decision about the case, which means the reprieve could be short-lived and the fate of the funding could continue to be whiplashed by seesawing court rulings.

"The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion," the appeals court wrote in its decision.

Opponents of stem cell funding have until Sept. 14 to file a response, and the government must submit its response by Sept. 20.

Elsewhere on the scientific front, the prestigious magazine Nature today released a stinging editorial on the right-wing assault on science called "Science scorned," with the subhead: "The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge."

This is an important statement, which we'll talk about a little tomorrow.

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At 6:08 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Right wing extremists suck all the oxygen out of the room, leaving no air for reasonable people to express reasonable disagreement with the President.

We should find a way to stop walking on eggshells around the things that we think need fixing, and there are a lot of these with the Obama administration, even for die-hard supporters.


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