Editor: 'Bush loyalists' may undermine, then 'sabotage' Obama
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Tuesday February 3, 2009

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When the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that President Obama had preserved the use of renditions -- the secret capture, transportation and detention of suspected terrorists to foreign prisons in countries that cooperate with the U.S. -- for the CIA's anti-terror toolbox, many liberals were outraged.

Some charged that the paper was "punked" by former CIA officials, or that the writer just plain got things wrong. On Monday night, MSNBC's Rachael Maddow wondered aloud if "Bush loyalists" who remain in government are trying to "undermine" President Obama. Maddow's guest, a contributing editor with Harper's magazine, agreed with her line of questioning, and even went so far as to say, "I think we may see sabotage as well."

While initially Maddow doubted the fidelity of Obama's Jan. 22 executive order mandating the end of President Bush's torture policies, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and the shuttering of the CIA's so-called "black sites," she said that Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, set her straight.

"Mr. Jaffer, who knows about these things, was not freaking out at all," said Maddow.

"Today is a great day for civil liberties," Jaffer said after the president signed his first round of executive orders. "In many way, these executive orders are exactly what we've been waiting for. I think it's important to take a moment just to recognize how far these policies are from where we were just a couple of days ago."

And then, the Times story touched ground.

"But these experts, these civil liberties guys, keep telling me that it's not like that," said Maddow. "So, what's with the leaking to the press from 'current and former intelligence officials' trying to make it seem like Obama is keeping Bush's policies, when I don't actually think that he is?

"I need a talking down here. Is Obama being undermined by Bush loyalists, or others who want to make it seem like Bush's worst policies weren't really so bad, that they are being kept by the popular new guy?"

Joining Maddow to discuss the issue was Scott Horton, a contributing editor with Harper's magazine.

After the Times report on continued renditions, Horton went on a tear, saying the paper "just got punked" in a story titled, "Renditions Buffoonery."

"The earlier renditions program regularly involved snatching and removing targets for purposes of bringing them to justice by delivering them to a criminal justice system," he wrote. "It did not involve the operation of long-term detention facilities and it did not involve torture. There are legal and policy issues with the renditions program, but they are not in the same league as those surrounding extraordinary rendition. Moreover, Obama committed to shut down the extraordinary renditions program, and continuously made clear that this did not apply to the renditions program.

"In the course of the last week we’ve seen a steady stream of efforts designed to show that Obama is continuing the counterterrorism programs that he previously labeled as abusive and promised to shut down. These stories are regularly sourced to unnamed current or former CIA officials and have largely run in right-wing media outlets. However, now we see that even the Los Angeles Times can be taken for a ride."

On Maddow's show, Horton said, "Even human rights advocates feel that there is a role for renditions still," though he was careful to draw a distinction between Bush's "extraordinary renditions" and what Obama, and presidents dating back to Reagan, have allowed to carry on.

"In the lame-duck period, we heard a lot about Bush staffers burrowing into jobs throughout the federal government," said Maddow. "Do you think that means, just tactically, that we should expect long term Bush legacy polishing stuff like this from anonymous sources inside the government?"

"Exactly right," said Horton. "I think we may see sabotage as well. Certainly there are going to be efforts to portray what Obama is doing as continuity rather than change, to try and undermine Obama's message."

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Feb. 2, 2009.

Download video via RawReplay.com