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Here’s How The Nation Responded When A Black Militia Group Occupied A Government Building February 28, 2018

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Gun Control/Violence, History, Race, Racism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Here, believe it or not, is a true story about  NRA supported Republican sponsored legislation on gun control.  It happened in my and maybe your lifetime; I remember it well.  I guess all things are relatives.  For Republicans and the NRA when oppressed people begin to arm themselves, that is another thing.  In other words, Black Panthers trump (no pun intended) the Second Amendment.  Getting back to the present, unless and until Blacks, Latinos, and Women begin to arm themselves en masse; it’s open season on assault gun sales.  Government tyranny must be addressed; and when the attack begins we will need those AK-15 to mow down as many as we can of those government soldiers, even though, of course, we support our troops.

Huffingtonpost, 01/06/2016 01:38 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2016
Nearly 50 years ago, a group of armed Black Panthers entered the California state Capitol to protest a gun control bill.

When armed militants seized a government building in Burns, Oregon, on Saturday, stating their willingness to “kill and be killed” and promising to stay for “years,” the official response was cautious and restrained. Many onlookers wondered whether this would still be the case if the militants were people of color instead of white people.

If you’re not familiar with the history of protest in the U.S., you might not know that the armed occupation of government buildings hasn’t always been just for white guys. In fact, on May 2, 1967, a group of 30 Black Panthers walked into the California state Capitol building, toting rifles and shotguns and quickly garnering national headlines.

Just to be clear, there are a world of differences between the Black Panthers’ demonstration and what’s happening in Oregon now (although it is noteworthy that you have to go back to 1967 to find an example of black activists doing something even remotely analogous). The two groups employed different tactics, fought for different causes and — predictably — elicited different reactions in vastly different places and times. But the 1967 incident serves as one example of the way Americans tend to respond to black protest — which some say is always likely to be different from the way Americans react when it’s white people doing the protesting.

SACRAMENTO BEE/MCT VIA GETTY IMAGES
Members of the Black Panthers hold guns during the group’s protest at the California Assembly in May 1967.

In October 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense as a small community organization based in Oakland, California. Its members — including the 30 people who would travel to Sacramento the following May — believed that black Americans should exercise their constitutional right to defend themselves against an oppressive U.S. government. At the time, California lawmakers were trying to strip them of that right, and the Black Panthers wanted to tell the U.S., and the world, that they found this unacceptable.

Among other things, the Black Panthers’ agenda involved taking up arms and patrolling their communities to protect against rampant racism in policing. And that’s what they did in the first few months of the party’s existence, carrying guns openly in compliance with California law, driving around their neighborhoods, observing arrests and other law enforcement activity — effectively policing the police. Newton was even known for packing a law book alongside his rifle that he’d recite from when informing an officer that a civilian’s rights were being violated.

The patrols weren’t meant to encourage violence. The Panthers were committed to using force only if it was used against them, and at first, their mere presence appeared to be working as a check on abusive policing. But the Panthers’ willful assertion of their rights — like the day Newton reportedly stood up to a cop in front of a crowd of black onlookers — was unacceptable to white authority figures who’d come to expect complete deference from black communities, and who were happy to use fear and force to extract it.

Don Mulford, a GOP assemblyman who represented Oakland, responded to the Black Panther police patrols in 1967 with a bill to strip Californians of the right to openly carry firearms.

Nobody tried to stop the 30 Black Panthers — 24 men and six women, carrying rifles, shotguns and revolvers — as they walked through the doors of the state Capitol building on May 2 of that year. This was decades before Sept. 11 or the Oklahoma City bombing, and the protesters were, after all, legally allowed to have their weapons. They entered with their guns pointed at the ceiling. Behind them followed a horde of journalists they’d called to document the protest.

As the rest of the group waited nearby, six Panthers entered the assembly chamber, where they found lawmakers mid-session. Some legislators reportedly saw the protesters and took cover under desks. It was the last straw: Police finally ordered the protesters to leave the premises. The group maintained they were within their rights to be in the Capitol with their guns, but eventually they exited peacefully.

Outside, Seale delivered the Black Panther executive mandate before a crush of reporters. This section of remarks, reprinted in Hugh Pearson’s The Shadow of the Pantherstill resonates today:

“Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people. All of these efforts have been answered by more repression, deceit and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalate the oppression of black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods, and increased patrols have become familiar sights in black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of black people for relief from this increasing terror.”

Shortly after Seale finished, police arrested the group on felony charges of conspiracy to disrupt a legislative session. Seale accused them of manufacturing “trumped up charges,” but the protesters would later plead guilty to lesser misdemeanors.

Mulford’s legislation, which became known as the “Panthers Bill,” passed with the support of the National Rifle Association, which apparently believed that the whole “good guy with a gun” thing didn’t apply to black people. California Gov. Ronald Reagan (R), who would later campaign for president as a steadfast defender of the Second Amendment, signed the bill into law.

Although the May 2 demonstration failed to sway lawmakers into voting against the Mulford Act — and may have even convinced some of them that such a measure was necessary — it did succeed in making the Black Panthers front-page news. Headlines ran above evocative photos of armed black protesters, many wearing berets, bomber jackets and dark sunglasses, walking the halls of the California Capitol. And the American public’s response to that imagery reflected a nation deeply divided on the issue of race.

On one hand, such a defiant demonstration of black power served as recruitment fodder for the Black Panther Party, which had previously only been operating in the Bay Area. It grew in size and influence, opening branches in a number of major cities, building a presence on college campuses and ultimately surging to as many as 5,000 members across 49 local chapters in 1969.

The party even attracted a number of radical-leaning white supporters — many of whom were moved by the Black Panthers’ lesser-remembered efforts, like free breakfasts for children in black neighborhoods, drug and alcohol abuse awareness courses, community health and consumer classes and a variety of other programs focused on the health and wellness of their communities.

But it was clear from the moment the Black Panthers stepped inside the California Capitol that the nuances of the protest, and of Seale’s message, weren’t going to be understood by much of white America. The local media’s initial portrayal of the brief occupation as an “invasion” would lay the groundwork for the enduring narrative of the Black Panthers first and foremost as a militant anti-white movement.

SACRAMENTO BEE
The front page of The Sacramento Bee on the night of the protest.

In August 1967, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took steps to ensure that public support for the Black Panthers would remain marginal. In a memorandum just months after the armed protest, he deemed the group a “black nationalist, hate-type organization“ to be neutralized by COINTELPRO, a controversial initiative that notoriously skirted the law in its attempts to subvert any movement that Hoover saw as a potential source of civil disorder. A 2012 report further uncovered the extent of the agency’s activity, revealing that an FBI informant had actually provided the Black Panthers with weapons and training as early as 1967.

As the Panthers’ profile grew in the months and years following the California Capitol protest, so too did their troubles — something that many of the Panthers themselves regarded as no coincidence. Just two months after Hoover put the Black Panthers in his sights, Newton was arrested and convicted of killing Oakland police officer John Frey, a hotly contested development and the first in a series of major, nationwide controversies that engulfed the movement. (Newton ultimately served two years of his sentence before his conviction was overturned in a set of appeals.)

The strength of the Black Panthers ebbed and flowed in the years leading up to the organization’s dissolution in 1982. The party struggled to find a balance between its well-intentioned community efforts and its reliance on firepower and occasional violence to bolster its hardened image. High-profile shootouts with police and arrests of members created further rifts in the group’s leadership and helped cement the white establishment’s depiction of Black Panthers as extremists.

Many white Americans couldn’t get over their first impression of the Black Panthers. Coverage of the 1967 protest introduced them to the party, and the fear of black people exercising their rights in an empowered, intimidating fashion left its mark. To them, the Black Panthers were little more than a group of thugs unified behind militaristic trappings and a leftist political ideology. And to be fair, some members of the party were criminals not just in the minds of frightened white people.

The Black Panther protest in 1967 is not the “black version” of what’s happening in Oregon right now. Those demonstrators entered the state Capitol lawfully, lodged their complaints against a piece of racially motivated legislation and then left without incident. But for those who see racial double standards at play in Oregon, the scope and severity of the 1967 response — the way the Panthers’ demonstration brought about panicked headlines, a prolonged FBI sabotage effort and support for gun control from the NRA, of all groups — will serve as confirmation that race shapes the way the country reacts to protest.

 

This article has been updated to specify that one has to go as far back as 1967 to find black activists — rather than any activists of color at all — participating in a protest similar to the Oregon occupation.

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Torture in the US Prison System: The Endless Punishment of Leonard Peltier August 13, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights.
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Saturday 13 August 2011
by: Preston Randolph and Dan Battaglia, Truthout         | Op-Ed

 

 

Leonard Peltier, a great-grandfather, artist, writer, and indigenous rights activist, is a citizen of the Anishinabe and Dakota/Lakota Nations and has been imprisoned since 1976. (Photo: Leonard Peltier Defense Committee)

Your visit to one of America’s prisons may last only a few hours, but once you pass the first steel threshold, your perception of humanity is altered. The slammed doors, metal detectors and body frisks introduce you to life on the inside, but the glaring hatred from the guards and officials make it a reality. When you creep back into your own world afterward, you wonder what is really happening to the people who permanently languish behind bars.

In June 2006, the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons released “Confronting Confinement,” a 126-page report summarizing its 12-month inquiry into the prison systems. The commission follows up the analysis based on its findings with a list of recommendations. Topping the list of needed improvements is better enforcement of inmates’ right to proper health care and limitations on solitary confinement. Five years after the report’s release and despite its detailed and well-researched studies, inmate abuse continues. More recently, news reports from California’s Pelican Bay Prison amplified the need for change, but after the three-week inmate hunger strike ended, the torture of solitary confinement continues nationwide.

More than 20,000 inmates are caged in isolation in the United States at any one time. Originally designed as a temporary disciplinary action, solitary confinement has drifted into use as a long-term punishment. This act of inhumanity is a clear contradiction of the Eighth Amendment. During the Pelican Bay hunger strike that rippled into prisons across the country, a 66-year-old man with extreme medical needs, Leonard Peltier, was forced into “the hole” at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.

Nightmarish as it is, what follows is fact.

In 1977, American Indian activist Leonard Peltier was convicted of murdering two FBI agents during a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Peltier has now served more than 35 years in federal prison. His trial remains one of the most controversial in the history of the American judicial system.

 

Since Peltier’s conviction, overwhelming information has been released confirming extreme misconduct by the FBI and the government prosecution’s withholding of evidence and use of coerced testimonies. It is obvious that Peltier, despite overwhelming reasonable doubt, was considered guilty before the trial began. It is now well known that during the time of Peltier’s involvement with the American Indian Movement (AIM), the FBI’s Cointelpro programs were running secret, illegal tactics to eliminate political organizations of dissent, including the strategic assassination and imprisonment of activists. Cointelpro was officially abolished in 1971, but the illegal tactics it used continue. The political agenda formulated against Peltier did not end with his trial, but persists as he serves his prison sentence. In 1992, Amnesty International deemed Peltier a political prisoner and stated that, “FBI misconduct prejudiced the fairness of his trial.”

Former Bureau of Prisons (BOP) official Bruce Smith served nearly 20 years at Leavenworth State Penitentiary in Kansas. Smith experienced firsthand the wrongdoings and mistreatment toward Peltier during the decades Peltier spent at Leavenworth.

“It’s obvious they [the FBI and the BOP] have an agenda out against Leonard. What has happened to him is wrong. See, they have the tendency to know where they want to go in a case, and then build their evidence to that point, and that’s exactly what happened to Leonard,” said Smith.

The FBI’s “blood for blood” agenda to railroad Peltier has merged its way into the prison system, where, it is noted, he has received inadequate and abusive treatment. Since his incarceration, Peltier has endured several hardships at the hands of the BOP, some of which have been labeled inhumane and immoral.

 

Currently Peltier is facing serious health issues, including diabetes, hypertension and, recently, symptoms of cancer. Many of these issues have been directly caused by lack of medical treatment and poor nutrition during his imprisonment. But this does not appear to have prevented the BOP from mistreating – or, more specifically, torturing – Peltier.

Since 2009, we have been producing a documentary film exposing the Peltier case.

 

As filmmakers, we are personally committed to exposing the truth and having an impact in serving real justice. We have accessed archives across the country pertaining to this case and have been in communication with key players on both sides of the story. Our intention is to tell the truth, much of which will be shocking to audiences. The more information we uncover, the more obvious it is that Peltier is an innocent activist, placed in hell because of extreme and illegal FBI actions. What is really shocking is how the mistreatment of Peltier behind prison walls continues even into his old age and as his health declines.

On June 27,  the day after the 36th anniversary of the FBI agents’ deaths on Pine Ridge, Peltier was abruptly moved from a cell among the general prison population into solitary confinement. The reasoning for the move was hidden from his legal team and supporters for days, and concern for his well-being grew.  Nearly a week after, the entire fiasco as to why the prison guards at Lewisburg decided that a 66-year-old man was a major risk to the security of the supermax prison was revealed.

The BOP incident reports linked immediately above do not tell the whole story.

The first charge indicated Peltier received a letter the previous day from a supporter in Scotland that contained a 20-pound note. Peltier had asked the mailroom to send back the enclosed money, but this request was not followed up. He then addressed a letter, including the 20-pound note, to a friend, with the intent to send it out of the prison, knowing that possession of unauthorized money was a violation of prison rules. This violation can only bring up the question: why did the BOP allow the 20-pound note into the prison in the first place, and why did the mailroom not take action when Peltier brought it to their attention?

The second charge relates to dangling wires found within Peltier’s cell. The incident report claims that an officer was inspecting the cell when he observed two exposed wires above the top bunk. The guard then pulled on the wires and was shocked with a jolt of electricity. (Who in his right mind would pull on exposed electrical wires?) Even though Peltier was not in the cell at the time, the BOP classified the incident as an “assault.” The report concludes by saying that Peltier was the only occupant in the cell. The BOP did not explain that a cellmate was recently transferred out of Peltier’s cell. This inmate was occupying the top bunk, which Peltier cannot access. Nonetheless, he was the one punished.

These miniscule infractions are excuses to punish Peltier, who is now set to serve six months of solitary confinement in a small cement hellhole for 23 to 24 hours a day. The conditions to which he is subjected are horrific. Lewisburg Prison is a notoriously old penitentiary, and the solitary confinement cells are not properly ventilated or air-conditioned. This raises further concerns about Peltier’s health as a major heat wave passes through the Eastern United States. Recently, another inmate was moved into the small, isolated cell that Peltier inhabits. The inmates who are forced into solitary confinement are not allowed personal visits or personal items of any kind. In the scorching heat, Peltier has sweated profusely, has been unable to sleep and has lost his appetite. It has been acknowledged that solitary confinement creates new health problems in inmates and can exacerbate pre-existing conditions.

This is torture, especially when used as punishment for such minor and questionable infractions.

According to Smith: “What’s happening is wrong. Their goal is to make Leonard miserable. They are out for blood because of the deaths of the agents, and they will not be satisfied until they get it.”

It seems that, since Smith’s retirement in the 2000’s, this agenda has not changed.  Peltier continues to be harassed, mistreated and denied proper health care and living conditions. Once the facts are presented, it’s quite obvious that from the government’s perspective, Peltier is meant to die in prison.

In the United States, where our Constitution opposes “cruel and unusual punishment,” we must ask ourselves what has happened. The imprisonment and harassment of an activist whose guilt is still in question is an outrage to our justice system. Everything pointing to Peltier’s guilt has been debunked, to the point that the prosecutors themselves have admitted that they couldn’t prove who killed the agents. Now, after 35 years of a wrongful imprisonment, Peltier, an ailing, 66-year-old man, continues to be harassed and tortured in prison. A six month-sentence to solitary confinement could very well be a death sentence. Immediate action is needed before it is too late. This case is contrary to everything America claims to stand for, and until Peltier is freed, this atrocity stains the hands of all of us who stand by and watch it happen.

More information on the Peltier case, his current situation and how to take action can be found here.

For more information about the film can be found
here.

Preston Randolph and Dan Battaglia are members of the 12-person film crew producing “Wind Chases the Sun,” a feature documenting the Leonard Peltier case.

Disclosure of ‘Secrets’ in the ’70s Didn’t Destroy the Nation April 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Torture.
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by Amy Goodman

President Barack Obama promised “more transparent … more creative” government. His release of the torture memos, and the Pentagon’s expected release of more photos of detainee abuse, is a step in the right direction. Yet he assured the CIA that he will not prosecute those who followed the instructions to torture from the Bush administration. Congress might not agree with this leniency, with prominent senators calling for investigations.Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, just released a 262-page report titled “Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody.” Levin said the report “represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse … to low-ranking soldiers. Claims … that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the unauthorized acts of a ‘few bad apples’ were simply false.” Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also are proposing investigations.

The Senate interest in investigation has backers in the U.S. House, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, D-Mich., who told The Huffington Post recently, “We’re coming after these guys.”

Amrit Singh, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Pentagon’s photos “provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib. Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.” The ACLU also won a ruling to obtain documents relating to the CIA’s destruction of 92 videotapes of harsh interrogations. The tapes are gone, supposedly, but notes about the content of the tapes remain, and a federal judge has ordered their release.

In December 2002, when the Bush torture program was well under way, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed off on a series of harsh interrogation techniques described in a memo written by William Hayes II (one of the “Bush Six” being investigated by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon). At the bottom of the memo, under his signature, Rumsfeld scrawled: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?” Rumsfeld zealously classified information in his years in government.

A similar crisis confronted the U.S. public in the mid-1970s. While the Watergate scandal was unfolding, widespread evidence was mounting of illegal government activity, including domestic spying and the infiltration and disruption of legal political groups, mostly anti-war groups, in a broad-based, secret government crackdown on dissent. In response, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities was formed. It came to be known as the Church Committee, named after its chairman, Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church. The Church Committee documented and exposed extraordinary activities on the CIA and FBI, such as CIA efforts to assassinate foreign leaders, and the FBI’s COINTELPRO (counterintelligence) program, which extensively spied on prominent leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It is not only the practices that are similar, but the people. Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., general counsel to the Church Committee, noted two people who were active in the Ford White House and attempted to block the committee’s work: “Rumsfeld and then [Dick] Cheney were people who felt that nothing should be known about these secret operations, and there should be as much disruption as possible.”

Church’s widow, Bethine Church, now 86, continues to be very politically active in Idaho. She was so active in Washington in the 1970s that she was known as “Idaho’s third senator.” She said there needs to be a similar investigation today: “When you think of all the things that the Church Committee tried to straighten out and when you think of the terrific secrecy that Cheney and all of these people dealt with, they were always secretive about everything, and they didn’t want anything known. I think people have to know what went on. And that’s why I think an independent committee [is needed], outside of the Congress, that just looked at the whole problem and everything that happened.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

How Obama Excused Torture April 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
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Former Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein writes that Obama’s decision to release CIA memos without prosecuting Bush administration officials flouts his constitutional duty.

by Bruce Fein

On Thursday, April 16th, in response to a lawsuit initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union, President Barack Obama released four redacted Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memoranda from the Bush administration to the CIA justifying torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. (The CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were modeled on the Chinese Communist coercive brainwashing program against Americans captured in the Korean War to induce false confessions). Each memorandum hedged its conclusions with substantial caveats, such as the absence of judicial precedents and concessions that reasonable persons could dispute their exculpatory conclusions. The memoranda were later renounced as bad law.

Obama, however, promised non-prosecution of all CIA personnel complicit in torture who relied on the flawed OLC advice. He further pledged to defend them from criminal investigations initiated by foreign jurisdictions and to indemnify them if they are held liable in damages for constitutional or statutory wrongdoing. Obama is similarly defending former OLC Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo against a torture suit initiated by Jose Padilla, convicted of terrorism in 2007 after the government dropped charges that as an “enemy combatant” he plotted to set off a “dirty bomb.” The Yoo memoranda on torture have also been renounced and discredited. Obama also promised to follow the Bush-Cheney duumvirate in claiming secrecy for alleged national security secrets because “the world is dangerous.” Indeed, he did not voluntarily initiate release of the four OLC memoranda, but responded to a Freedom of Information Act suit. And President Obama has echoed the Bush-Cheney state secrets arguments to block lawsuits challenging the legality of spying on Americans without warrants in contravention of the Fourth Amendment or federal law, or seeking damages for torture. Moreover, Obama has been unable to recite a single instance where transparency proved more dangerous to the liberties of the American people than has secrecy, the birthplace of COINTELPRO, Shamrock, Minaret, Abu Ghraib, and torture of 14 so-called “High Value Al Qaeda” detainees in secret prisons abroad (according to the International Committee of the Red Cross).

On the same day Obama was excusing torture and promising more secret government, The New York Times published a front page story disclosing the National Security Agency’s apparently illegal interceptions of emails and phone calls of American citizens in the United States without individual judicial warrants. The interceptions exceeded even the sweeping group warrant authority to spy on persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States that were authorized in amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) enacted last September. President Obama has declined to sanction a single official implicated in the latest apparent violation of a statute he supported as a senator. He has similarly chosen non-prosecution for former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, and high level officials at the National Security Agency (NSA) and CIA who authorized more than five years of FISA felonies: namely, warrantless NSA spying on American citizens on American soil in flagrant contravention of FISA, about which more anon.

The evidence is now undeniable. President Barack Obama is flouting his unflagging constitutional obligation enshrined in Article II, Section 3 to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” He is also reneging on his signature campaign promise to restore the rule of law, transparency, and accountability to the White House. He is displaying the psychology of an arrogant Empire as opposed to a modest Republic in continuing and escalating the Bush-Cheney duumvirate’s global and perpetual war against international terrorism heedless of foreign sovereignties or the lives of civilians.

Even more disappointing, Obama has proven a political coward dangerous to the Republic. Before April 16, he had decided against any criminal investigation of the Bush-Cheney duumvirate or their inner circles for their boasted complicity in torture, i.e., waterboarding, which Attorney General Eric Holder has declared is torture. He has similarly declined investigations of extraordinary renditions that have occasioned, among other things, the indictments and in absentia trials of 26 CIA operatives in Milan, Italy, for the kidnapping and torture of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar.

Obama made no effort to square his refusal to investigate credible and substantial evidence of felonies with his constitutional obligation to faithfully execute, not sabotage the laws. He relied solely on politics, as though law was nothing more than a constellation of political calculations with ulterior motives. Obama insisted that investigations of Bush-Cheney would disturb the Toscanini-like symphony he had promised to the political class in the corridors of power. Comparable political calculations explain why Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai declines to prosecute the countless officials implicated in staggering corruption, inefficiency, and subjugation of women-all of which are deplored by President Obama.

In sweeping the Bush-Cheney lawlessness under the rug, Obama has set a precedent whitewashing White House lawlessness in the name of national security that will lie around like a loaded weapon ready for resurrection by any Commander-in-Chief eager to appear “tough on terrorism” and to exploit popular fear. Obama urges that the crimes were justified because the duumvirate acted to protect the nation from international terrorism. But Congress did not create a national security defense to torture or commit FISA felonies.

President Obama should have invoked his pardon power if he believed circumstances justified the crimes by Bush and Cheney and the CIA’s interrogators. A pardon or lesser clemency properly exposes the president to political accountability, as Bush discovered with Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby and President Ford with former President Nixon. More significant, a pardon does not set a precedent making lawful what was unlawful. It acknowledges the criminality of the underlying activity, and acceptance of the pardon is an admission of guilt by the recipient. Pardons leave unsullied the doctrine of Ex parte Milligan (1866):”The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men at all times and in all circumstances. No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government.”

Obama can be summoned against his own non-prosecution policy, secrecy, and non-accountability. In releasing the four OLC memoranda on April 16, Obama asserted: “Enlisting our values [like the rule of law or transparency] in the protection of our people makes us stronger and more secure. A democracy as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security and our ideals [like the rule of law or government in the sunshine]… I believe strongly in transparency and accountability… The United States is a nation of laws.”

These words should be taken cum granis salis. Bush and Cheney also insisted that everything they did was constitutional and indispensable to thwarting another 9/11. Obama’s promise of change has proven nothing more than verbal jugglery.

Bruce Fein was associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, and has authored Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for our Constitution and Democracy.