Mr. Obama invoked the state secrets privilege a second time last week to block litigation challenging the legality of the Bush-Cheney “Terrorist Surveillance Program” (TSP) that he had assailed as a senator. For five years, the TSP targeted American citizens on American soil for electronic surveillance on the president’s say-so alone to gather foreign intelligence in contravention of the warrant requirement of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
And then there’s this potential calamity in the offing:
Then-Sen. Obama descried the Bush-Cheney invocation of executive privilege to prevent former White House officials Karl Rove and Harriet Miers from even responding to congressional subpoenas for testimony about the firings of nine United States attorneys. That extravagant and unprecedented claim would have enabled President Nixon to muzzle his Watergate nemesis, former White House counsel John Dean, from testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee about Oval Office conversations implicating the president in obstruction of justice. Mr. Obama, however, is now hedging over whether to defend Mr. Rove’s non-responsiveness to a new congressional subpoena.
If Obama allows Rove to claim executive privilege to duck that subpoena, it’s a pretty good sign that he has no intention whatsoever of walking back Bush’s executive power grabs. Allowing Rove to claim executive privilege well after he’s no longer in public office would make any future investigation of the Bush administration nearly impossible.
I guess the one positive that would come out of that is that we’d get to see who on the left was sincere when calling out the danger in Bush’s expansive view of executive power these last eight years, and who’s willing to let it all slide so long as their own guy is holding the reins.
Obama got off to an encouraging start. Unfortunately, it looks like it didn’t take him long at all to begin to realize that any serious effort to curb the excesses of the Bush administration—excesses he excoriated as a senator and candidate—would also limit his own power.