On Thursday, in an online question-and-answer gambit set up by Google, President Barack Obama "promised to be more forthcoming with the American public on his administration's campaign of lethal drone strikes." He acknowledged that the program should be part of the checks-and-balances provisions of the US Constitution and that he would work hard to meet this aim.
Sounds good, doesn't it? I might be apt to believe him except that, as Glenn Greenwald steadily has reported, the Obama administration has gone out of its way in court proceedings to deny that a drone program even exists!
Writing on Thursday, Greenwald tells of a case in which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought suit "against the CIA to compel a response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about Obama's CIA assassination program. That FOIA request seeks nothing sensitive, but rather only the most basic and benign information about the "targeted killing" program."
How did Obama's Justice Department respond to the lawsuit?
The Obama DOJ from the start has refused not only to provide the requested documents about the CIA drone program, but they refuse to say whether such documents even exist. They do so by insisting that whether there even exists such a thing as a "CIA drone program" is itself classified, and therefore, they can neither admit nor deny whether they possess any of the documents sought by the FOIA request: "the very fact of the existence or nonexistence of such documents is itself classified," repeats the Obama DOJ over and over like some hypnotic Kafkaesque mantra.
So, let me see if I understand this. The President can make public statements about the drone program -- that program that may or may not exist -- but he argues that a court shouldn't compel his administration to release any documents pertaining to it because...said program may or may not exist?
For you parents out there, do you think this sort of bizarre argument would sway you in terms of your children?
A neighbor accuses your son or daughter of stealing something from him. The neighbor is certain your child is the culprit because he overheard your child boasting about the theft numerous times to other kids in the neighborhood. When you confront your child and demand that he/she hand over the pilfered item, your child refuses on the grounds that he/she may or may not possess it. In fact, your child refuses to discuss the matter with you at all because it is "classified" information.
The very idea that there is any question that a drone program exists is preposterous! The President himself has spoken about it publicly on many occasions. He aides have gone on TV news programs to defend it. As Greenwald points out, "Just last week, Obama's nominee to lead the CIA, John Brennan, spent hours upon hours before the Senate Intelligence Committee praising the CIA targeted killing program."
And yet, in lawsuits before courts, the Obama administration falls back on this worn-out argument again and again. Even worse, judges fall for this lamest of arguments every damn time.
It's like we live today in some weird alternative universe!