After seeking to dismiss at least a half-dozen lawsuits alleging torture, illegal wiretapping and other abuses by Bush administration officials, each time on the grounds that the lawsuits would endanger national security by unearthing “state secrets,” the Obama administration today is expected to finally change its tune.
Carrie Johnson at The Washington Post reports that the administration will “announce a new policy Wednesday making it much more difficult for the government to claim that it is protecting state secrets when it hides details of sensitive national security strategies such as rendition and warrantless eavesdropping, according to two senior Justice Department officials.”
The new policy apparently requires intelligence agencies and the military to convince the attorney general and a team of Justice Department lawyers that the release of sensitive information would present significant harm to “national defense or foreign relations.” In the past, all it took was one official to approve the claim that state secrets were at risk.
While the Obama administration’s announcement is welcome, it’s also long overdue. Back in June, Attorney General Eric Holder said he was going to announce a new policy on the so-called state secrets privilege “in a matter of days.” Many days have passed, and now three months later, we have a new policy.
Any administration infighting over the changes may have finally been settled by the fact that legislation pending in the Senate, the State Secrets Protection Act of 2009, would have made very similar changes — only the credit would have gone to Congress rather than the president.
This morning, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the USA Patriot Act, committee chair Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a co-sponsor of the State Secrets Protection Act, said of the administration’s new policy on state secrets that “today’s announcement marks progress.” He pledged to closely monitor its application.
Update: Here is the Justice Department’s announcement.
MA-Sen: 66 to 19
BOSTON -- That, via Alex Isenstadt and Josh Kraushaar, is the number that defined the Massachusetts Senate race more than anything else. From the primary
MA-Sen: A Text Message From Scott Brown
BOSTON -- Having signed up for Scott Brown’s text message service for election day, I just got this text: Are you about to have lunch? It’s a great time to
MA-Sen: Brown Wins
BOSTON -- At 9:20, the first rumors of Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race started to work around the room. A moment later, Doug Flutie
MA-Sen: 150 Conservative Bloggers Fan Out, Looking for Scandals
BOSTON -- The mysterious Election Journal blog, which first released the infamous 2008 video of two bumbling New Black Panther Party members waving nightsticks
MA-Sen: Loyal Democrats Grouse About Coakley
BOSTON -- A little while after noon, a steady crowd of Democratic voters streamed into the Cathedral High School Gymnasium to cast votes for their party’s
MA-Sen: Out-of-Staters for Brown
BOSTON -- A surprising discovery at yesterday’s People’s Rally in Worcester was just how many people had traveled into the state to assist, in whatever way,
MA-Sen Photos: ‘Paint the Town Red! Croakley’s Dead!’
Below are some photos of yesterday’s People’s Rally in Worcester, the rally that Brown held to counter-program the Obama rally in Boston. The crush of
BOSTON -- Snow is falling in the Bay State, from western Massachusetts to heavily Democratic downtown Boston. In a campaign full of lucky breaks for Republican
MA-Sen: Republicans Celebrate Coakley’s Gaffes in Worcester
WORCESTER, Mass. - By the way, said Curt Schilling. One more thing. I am not a Yankees fan. The overflowing crowd at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall on
Net Investors Bullish on Palin’s Prospects for Staying on Ticket
Just for fun, the Internet prediction Website Intrade has opened a contract on whether Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be withdrawn as McCain’s running mate.