A Tortuous Decision

A New York Times front-page story announces a “major victory for the Obama administration’s efforts to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy powers.” A divided federal appeals court dismissed the American Civil Liberties Union’s case against a Boeing subsidiary allegedly involved in transporting detainees to countries suspected of torture. The Times reports one judge wrote that the accusations amounted to “a rare case” in which state secrets “trumped” the ACLU’s concerns. The paper also points out that the administration’s national security programs have “in some ways departed” from Obama’s rhetoric on the campaign trail. The ACLU not surprisingly said they will appeal the decision and the case could provoke the first Supreme Court hearing on the state secrets issue in fifty years.

But the Times isn’t just reporting on the court decision. It’s got an opinion, too. The editors lambaste the finding, which they say “dimishes any hope” that the rendition program—and any torture that occurred as a result—will be recognized as a breach of international law. The Times thinks the five judges in the minority “demolished” the notion that the executive branch should be protected by state secrets.

Bloggers are already denouncing either the article or the decision or the administration, or in some cases all three. One stunning exception might be the very conservative Uncle Jimbo (normally in the business of finding something wrong with the Times or the administration), who welcomes the decision, and credits “the Obama team” for doing “what is required to keep us all safe.”

Other conservatives found more to criticize. Donald Douglas seizes on the gap between the president’s talk and his policies as a chance to celebrate George W. Bush’s “right qualities” of honesty, integrity and moral clarity. Thomas Jocelyn says the piece “missed” a few points in its description of one of the plaintiffs, Binyam Mohamed. Jocelyn notes that Mohamed “admittedly trained” with al-Qaeda and is now roaming free; and not only that, his “torture claims are bizarre, extreme, and entirely unproven.”

The more liberal Brad Friedman praises Times correspondent Charlie Savage’s reporting, and adds, sarcastically, “Gosh. Can't understand why Obama's approval ratings keep falling.” AllahPundit, writing from his perch on Hot Air, calls the ruling a big surprise, given that the court—the Ninth Circuit—is “the most famously liberal appellate court in the country,” and because Obama was supposed to have canceled the rendition program.

Marcy Wheeler is more upset than surprised, saying the ruling “is really bad news,” while Glenn Greenwald braved the flu to protest “the distorted, radical use of the state secret privilege.” The Talking Dog complains that “Obama and Holder sold us out on the grad daddy of them all,” and Prairie Weather laments the passing of “an honorable justice system.” And Mother Jones’s Nick Baumann thinks the decision upholds the “‘get out of jail free’ card” used by both the Bush and Obama administrations.