Tuesday, January 27, 2009

If The President Does It, That Mean's It's Legal

Mark Hosenball in "Newsweek":
In a closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, White House counsel Gregory Craig was asked whether the president was required by law to follow executive orders. According to people familiar with his remarks, who asked for anonymity when discussing a private meeting, Craig answered that the administration did not believe he was. The implication: in a national-security crisis, Obama could deviate from his own rules. A White House official said that Craig's remarks were being "mischaracterized."

Some Capitol Hill sources and intel officials said Craig's private remarks constituted a big loophole in new guidelines, one that would allow Obama to behave much like President Bush. "I don't think there's a really big change, sub rosa," said one veteran undercover spy. Intel sources cautioned that Craig's declaration does not mean Obama plans to issue secret orders that would contradict his public anti-torture stance. (During his confirmation hearing, Dennis Blair, Obama's new intel czar, said emphatically that there would be no torture "on my watch.") What it probably means in practice, the spy said, is that Obama could, in a dire emergency, issue a secret presidential "finding" instructing the CIA or another agency to overstep boundaries of public policy.

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