Weekly Web Watch 07/27/09 – 08/02/09

Karl Rove

Karl Rove

A judge granted the habeas corpus petition of Guantanamo’s youngest detainee, Mohammed Jawad.  The government admitted that it could no longer defend his military detention.  However, the ruling gives the government until Aug. 21 in order to allow the Department of Justice to decide whether Jawad should be tried in civilian court for allegedly throwing a hand grenade, injuring two American servicemen and an Afghani translator.  Jacob Sullum reminds readers that this is not the end of proceedings for Jawad.  If he is charged and acquitted in civilian court, Jawad could be placed in “prolonged detention” until he succeeds in another habeas proceeding.  Liza Goiten suggests that those designated enemy combatants will never be found “not guilty.”  Scott Horton reminds readers of the treatment to which Jawad was subjected, including death threats and sleep deprivation.  And Glenn Greenwald remembers that the order for Jawad’s release would not have been possible except for the Boumediene ruling.

Another detainee, Khaled Al-Mutairi, whose case has not engendered as much debate, was also ordered released.  And the Obama administration is looking to create a “courtroom-within-a-prison” complex in either Michigan or Kansas.

The Obama administration is proceeding with plans to aggressively pursue antitrust actions.  This reverses the Bush administration position, which sidelined the antitrust division except in cases where consumers were known to be harmed.  Early targets of investigation include airline companies, phone and cable providers, and Google.  Farhad Manjoo reviews the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft and cautions the DoJ against further tinkering with the relative power of software companies.

Retired NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden took to the pages of the New York Times to defend the President’s Surveillance Program after the release of the inspectors general report.  Hayden noted that Congress was made aware of all activities, that the DoJ signed off on the program, and that, while it is hard to determine the exact amount of useful intelligence procured, the program was valuable to the intelligence community.  Spencer Ackerman accuses the former spy chief of “having fun with adjectives,” rather than addressing the concerns of the report.

CIA director Leon Panetta pens an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he expresses hope that Congress will look to the future with him rather than continue pointing fingers over the CIA’s secret assassination program that the agency concealed for seven years.

Karl Rove (pictured above) stepped in front of the House Judiciary Committee in a closed session to answer questions about his role in the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006.  He then gave interviews to the New York Times and Washington Post.  Rove admitted that he had passed on complaints about New Mexico’s fired David Iglesias and that he had campaigned for a job for his aide Tim Griffin but, his attorney stressed, Rove’s “answers should put to rest any suspicion that he acted improperly.”  Zachary Roth reminds readers that there is a special prosecutor involved and that the story is “a long way from over.”

Back in May, Eli Lake reported that the U.S. threatened to stop sharing intelligence information with the U.K. if judges in that country revealed detainee interrogation methods.  The Guardian now reports that Secretary of State Clinton personally delivered that message.

The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan could rise, if the new NATO commander has his way.  Michael Goldfarb remarks that this was predictable.

Deborah Pearlstein reports that the Administration and the Senate are quietly moving forward with their proposal for new military commissions.  According to Pearlstein, the main points of contention are the procedural rights that detainees will be afforded, including the admissibility of evidence, the presumption of Article III jurisdiction, and the jurisdiction of Article III appellate courts.

Jennifer Rubin argues that the Obama administration has reneged on its promise to depoliticize the Department of Justice.  As examples, she points to the decision by Eric Holder to circumvent OLC and go to the Solicitor General when pursuing D.C. voting rights, several instances in which the AG refused to turn over deliberations and decisions to Congress, and the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case.  She also points to Dawn Johnsen, the nominee for head of OLC, as an “extreme partisan” of the type that “Holder suggested would be unwelcome in his department.”

The Pentagon may ban Twitter and Facebook use on military networks.  An Army major worries that this is an overbroad attempt by the Pentagon to control information about military life and activities.

Alexander Cockburn warns that hawkish remarks by Vice-President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton have brought Obama “dangerously close to ridicule.”  Cockburn argues that Biden and Clinton are going off-script by proposing missile-defense measures that may be antagonizing Iran.  Daniel Larison, by contrast, sees this as part of an orchestrated plan in which Obama uses the two to push hawkish ideas that he has to “reluctantly” follow.

Defense Secretary Gates and Obama may have declared victory in the battle over the F-22, but the war over defense spending goes on.  This week, the House passed a defense spending bill that includes at least $6.9 billion that the Pentagon did not request.  The bill is expected to pass.  Michael Goldfarb argues that this is a system worked out by the Pentagon and Congress and bristles at those who call it “pork.”

Jacob Weisberg argues that Obama is hamstringing himself by trying too hard to avoid the mistakes of Clinton and George W. Bush, especially in the areas of healthcare and foreign policy.  The Economist agrees, charging the President with allowing Congress to take too much control of the country.  Eric Martin sees a welcome departure in policy from the Bush administration in Obama’s refusal to trumpet the arrests of suspected terrorists.

John Yoo has been giving a series of talks defending his expansive views of executive power.  Also of note is that he has hired private counsel to defend him in the suit filed against him by Jose Padilla.

Political science professor Brad Roth has a draft article on SSRN in which he argues that over-aggressive enforcement of of international law risks undermining guarantees of human rights.  The paper argues that use of international law can undermine the ability of states to work together to promote just outcomes by disincentivizing the targeted state from “coming to the table.”  Kenneth Anderson has some thoughts about the article, notably that seeing the issue through a left/right prism is unhelpful.

In April, Obama asked his Cabinet heads to come up with $100 million in cuts within ninety days.  The Office of Management and Budget reported that this goal was met and provided a list of the cuts.

Peter Suderman, who follows the health-care debate for the libertarian blog Hit & Run, has details of the fight between the CBO and OMB over how much health-care reform will cost.  CBO projects a cost far in excess of what OMB insists is the actual cost of the proposal.  Interestingly, the current head of OMB, Peter Orszag, was the last head of the CBO.  Frank Pasquale accuses the current head of the CBO of political bias.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents have been conducting SWAT-style raids hundreds of times per year without judicial warrants.  They are allowed to do so by using administrative warrants, issued by other ICE officials, that supposedly are targeted at illegal immigrants who have committed criminal offenses.

President Obama sat down to lunch with the CEOs of AT&T, Coca-Cola, Honeywell, and Xerox, then billed them for the experience.  The White House did so to avoid any charges of a conflict of interest.  Amanda Carey points out the backwardness of that position.

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