Wednesday, September 23, 2009

State's Secrets

Not sure how much to make of this, but it sounds good. Raising the threshold under which state secrets can be invoked to shut down lawsuits would be an improvement.
The new policy, which could be announced as early as Wednesday, would require approval by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. if military or espionage agencies wanted to assert the privilege to withhold classified evidence sought in court or to ask a judge to dismiss a lawsuit at its onset.

“The department is adopting these policies and procedures to strengthen public confidence that the U.S. government will invoke the privilege in court only when genuine and significant harm to national defense or foreign relations is at stake and only to the extent necessary to safeguard those interests,” says a draft of a memorandum from Mr. Holder laying out the policy and obtained by The New York Times.
Of course, the cynic in me thinks this is just a cosmetic fix designed to derail the Congressional move to limit it by law. And it's hard to forget that the administration has already used it in cases they inherited from the Bush administration.

Then again, it's comforting to think, they might really be trying to ramp it down in order to rectify the Bush era abuses. Will be watching to see how this develops.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Anonymous sandbun said...

You must be joking. You think this will raise the threshold? You really think that if Bush had this policy in place it would've stopped him from acting exactly the same way? We need oversight from people that aren't appointed by the President. The last 8 years should've made that abundantly clear.

2:56:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

As I said sandbun, not sure I want to make too much of it, but any walkback from the Bush policy is a welcome step IMO. Even a tiny one.

10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous sandbun said...

Greenwald -
"Most important of all, the central abuse is rooted in the ability of the Executive Branch to assert the secrecy privilege without any binding limitations imposed by Congress and enforced by courts. We're not supposed to have a system of government where we rely on the good faith of the Executive Branch to monitor itself. Without a law in place that limits the President's ability to have entire lawsuits dismissed on secrecy grounds, abuse is inevitable. The last administration proved that, and so has the current one. The institutional bias of the Justice Department is that it sees the world from the perspective of the Executive Branch and wants to win cases on its behalf, and the state secrets privilege is far too potent and tempting a weapon to leave in their hands in unfettered form, hoping upon hope that they will exercise it responsibly. The abuses were coming from the DOJ in the first place; how can the solution possibly be to trust that the DOJ will police itself responsibly in the future? Why shouldn't these abuses be curbed by an act of Congress and enforceable by courts? Yet again, the policy the Obama administration announced -- clearly designed to undermine the perceived need for a law to limit the privilege -- has pretty words in it, but it enacts no real changes."

11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Yeah, I heard Glenn wasn't that thrilled with it. But at least they didn't make it worse.

8:27:00 AM  

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