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Is Obama Channeling Cheney?

That’s the claim made by the Wall Street Journal editorial board over the weekend, hammering Obama for his aggressive assertion of executive power to hide evidence of warrantless wiretapping under the Bush administration.

As I wrote last week, the case of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama has showcased the Obama justice department’s willingness to fight tooth-and-nail to protect its authority to conceal information it deems a “state secret,” even if it’s covering up for actions of the prior administration. The purpose seems to be more about defending the executive’s right to assert the “state secrets privilege” to dismiss a case in the future, and to determine when classified information can or can’t be released to the public, rather than about protecting the specific information involved in the case, since, as I’ve explained before, we all pretty much know at this point what that information is. (The government accidentally provided it to Al-Haramain’s lawyers, who suddenly knew they’d been wiretapped and filed the lawsuit.)

As the Journal puts it, given the Obama DOJ’s assertion that the president alone has the right to decide when to release classified information, regardless of the orders of a federal judge, “we’re beginning to wonder if the White House has put David Addington, Mr. Cheney’s chief legal aide, on retainer.”

Even if the Journal is just beating up on Obama to discredit him (after all, it goes on to say it agrees with the Justice Department’s broad assertions), the editorial does raise an important question: are the Democrats (and the mainstream media) turning a blind eye to broad claims of executive power that they denounced just last week when similar theories of executive authority surfaced in Office of Legal Counsel memos produced under President George W. Bush?

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