President Obama gave a speech outlining his new health-care reform proposal. The highlight of the evening, at least for reporters, was Rep. Joe Louis shouting “You lie!” at the president after Obama stated that illegal aliens would not be covered. Reaction was immediate and Louis apologized the next day. Despite some claims, heckling the president is not unprecedented. James Joyner defends Louis, saying that the Democrats’ plan will wind up covering illegal aliens, even if it is not explicitly supposed to do so. Alex Massie is uninterested in health care, but the British writer is fascinated by a country that staged a revolution to overthrow a king, only to demand that everyone treat the president like a monarch. Relatedly, Obama is offering to put tort reform into the health-care bill, though he would use a former trial lawyer lobbyist to do so.
President Obama imposed a thirty-five percent tariff on tire imports from China. He did so under a section of the law that allows the President to unilaterally impose tariffs to prevent “surges” of foreign goods. The Financial Times reports that China is already threatening to escalate the incident into a trade war by slapping tariffs on U.S. poultry and cars.
The men who attempted to blow airliners up with liquid explosives were convicted in the U.K. Channel 4 reports that they were caught using NSA wiretaps. Glenn Greenwald notes, however, that those wiretaps were authorized by the FISA.
Saturday saw the largest rally yet against President Obama. The number of protesters is still unknown; most sources report 1-1.5 million people attended; outliers range from 2 million to 60,000. One thing most observers agree on is that there was no unifying theme to the protesters aside from their dislike of Obama’s policies.
The U.S. invaded Somalia. Again.
Detainees at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan will be allowed to challenge their detention under a new system put in place by the Obama administration. Detainees will be represented by a non-lawyer military officer before a panel of military officers. They will be allowed to call witnesses and offer some evidence.
Adam Serwer took note of the recent statements of FBI investigators that torture was ineffective and came up with a question: Why don’t we see statements from “boots-on-the-ground” types saying that torture is a valuable tool? Almost all defense of “enhanced interrogation techniques” have indeed come from policymakers and pundits. On the other hand, Thomas Joscelyn accuses the FBI agent to whom Serwer points of misreading the history of the program. Somewhat relatedly, on Friday, two former generals accused former Vice-President Dick Cheney of using “scare tactics” and fomenting torture.
Blogger Andrew Sullivan was arrested on a national seashore with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. The Department of Justice decided to drop the case. This has led to blogospheric musings about whether a famous blogger was able to get special treatment as well as whether it makes sense having laws against marijuana possession.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit threw out a case against two contractors who were at Abu Ghraib during the abuses that occurred there. The suit, brought by Iraqis who alleged that the contractors were involved in abuse and torture, fell because the claims were pre-empted by federal law and because of the government’s strong interest in having “flexibility” when using contractors. The government, however, did not intervene in the case, not even to file an amicus brief.
Investigators at the International Criminal Court announced that they are collecting information on alleged human rights abuses in Afghanistan. The court has not started an investigation; this information-gathering expedition is designed to allow them to decide whether to take that step. Kevin Jon Heller thinks that only Taliban militants will likely find themselves in front of the ICC; his whole post is worth a read. Brett Schaefer argues that this development further makes the case that the U.S. should steer clear of the ICC.
Sandy Levinson read Stephen Griffin’s series of posts on war powers and came away convinced that John Yoo was emulating the model of Adrian Fisher. Fisher was the State Department’s legal advisor when American troops were first sent to Korea; he believed that the Constitution had to be radically changed for the Cold War. Likewise, Levinson argues, Yoo’s memos should be considered as being written in a pivotal moment when the author assumed that everything that came before was suspect.
The Department of Justice has started investigating the dismissal of a voter intimidation case in Philadelphia. The dismissal has been a source of controversy for some since shortly after the 2008 election; DoJ now says that the Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating and will report to Congress once they are finished.
Bradley Schlozman, former head of the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division, will not be charged with perjury. Schlozman had previously been investigated by the Bush administration, which also decided not to charge him, though an OPR investigation completed in 2006 said that he lied to Congress. Scott Horton says that the decision means that DoJ attorneys are expected to uphold a lower standard of behavior than ordinary citizens.
The Guardian reports that al-Qaeda is dead in the water. Ian Black and Richard Norton-Taylor claim that the organization is having trouble with recruitment, finances, and operations. Spencer Ackerman provides some additional support for this argument.
Detainee Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh filed a motion with the D.C. Circuit Court alleging that the military commissions process is without constitutional authority. Al-Shibh alleges that the system is nothing but a kangaroo court. The Court has asked the Obama administration to respond to the petition. The D.C. Circuit Court, in another case, struck down all orders that barred the administration from transferring detainees without consent.
Columbia Law School Professor Sarah Cleveland was named Counselor on International Law for the State Department. Republicans are circulating a memo that offer some estimates as to how she might guide the State Department.
Robert Chesney wrote in the Washington Post that the detention debate has many more complications and nuances than most people know. It prompted an outburst from Glenn Greenwald, who sees in Chesney’s op-ed the way in which the new administration will attempt to sell the same old policies, couched in new language.
Steven Aftergood reports on the case of Horn v. Huddle, in which the parties have access to classified information but their lawyers do not. The judge in the case issued an order demanding that the government release the information to the lawyers, based upon counsel’s “need-to-know.” The case is important because the executive branch maintains that the judge had no authority to issue such an order. The government has requested a stay pending appeal. Kim Zetter has more details on the case, which involve the CIA and State Department allegedly spying on a DEA agent in Burma via the agent’s coffee table.