Obama Needs Congress to Close GTMO, but Not to Use Drones?
By Dennis Loo (5/16/13)
In late April of 2013, Congress held a hearing, finally, on Obama's use of drones. Obama, however, oddly declined to send anyone to represent the White House at this hearing. Obama had promised in his February 12, 2013 State of the Union Address to bring more transparency to his drone program.
In his SOTU address, Obama said this:
"We must enlist our values in the fight," Obama said, in a portion of the speech dedicated to the "range of capabilities" the U.S. would deploy against suspected terrorists worldwide. "In the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."
Note this phrase in particular: "consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances." I learned in grade school that "checks and balances" refers to the interactions between the three major branches of the government, the Legislative (Congress), the Judiciary, and the Executive Branch (White House). Despite promising once again to be "transparent" in the months ahead, Obama doesn't think that checks and balances refers to participating in a Senate hearing on one of his most controversial policies two months after he promised to do this in the "months ahead."
Laws, as you all know, refer to procedures that establish, among other things, guilt or innocence. One is, under our legal system, supposed to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Oversight over the legal processes is provided for under the principle that no one is suitable by themselves to be prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. That is the law.
Apparently, what Obama means by "consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances" is something radically different than what I learned in the U.S. system of education and what people are taught in our law schools.
The April 2013 Congressional hearing on drones was held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The committee is chaired by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill). By not coming to the Senate hearing held by a committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, apparently Obama thinks that "I will continue to engage with Congress" means not sending a White House spokesperson to discuss his drone policy. By "our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world" he means "I and my people will use the word 'transparency' a lot but we won't actually be 'transparent' in our actions."
Evidently, when he promises to do something, like to be transparent and follow the law and engage Congress, this promise is as meaningful as his promise in his recent press conference that he wants to close Guantanamo.
Every Tuesday in the White House, Obama meets with a group of close advisers, including CIA Director John Brennan, to decide who will be put onto his "kill list" to be assassinated by drones. This drone policy which Mr. Obama first proposed while candidate Obama, to then-President Bush to use in Pakistan, is not in the same category in Mr. Obama's mind as closing Guantanamo. (Former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed in February 2013 that while being prepped for his job as Obama's Press Secretary, the person responsible for meeting with the press on behalf of the White House, he was specifically told to deny that drones were being used. More evidence of the Obama Administration's transparency.)
Because there has been resistance in Congress to closing Guantanamo, Obama says his hands are tied. "I want to close it, I do, but I just can't you see. It's Congress' fault." But when it comes to Congressional resistance to his growing use of drones to kill thousands of people abroad, including even some American citizens, and including hundreds of children, he as Commander-in-Chief can go ahead and just do it.
Mr. Obama, what is the difference between your need to get Congressional permission to close GTMO, but your not needing Congressional approval to assassinate thousands with drones?