Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Obama Doesn't Want You Breaking the Law, But Won't Tell You What It Is

Don't break the laws that I just made up and won't tell you about. (NYTimes)
While I was swiping through the New York Times on a recent train trip I clicked on an article about the feds looking into who leaked the details of a recently uncovered Al Qaeda plot to blow up a plane via their underwear. Titled "F.B.I. Chief Says Leak on Qaeda Plot is Being Investigated," the article went over the details and mentioned the Obama administration's willingness to go after those who leak classified information to the press. But the last three paragraphs, which seemingly had nothing to do with the article, were the most interesting. Given their stand-alone nature, I reproduce them below:
In another sign of the Obama administration’s increasing focus on Yemen, President Obama issued an executive order on Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the United States-based assets of anyone who seeks to “undermine” the American-backed political transition in Yemen. 
The order is unusual because unlike similar measures authorizing terrorist designations and sanctions, it does not include a list of names or organizations already determined to be in violation. Instead, administration officials said, it is designed to deter individuals who could threaten Yemen’s fragile security and political stability by undermining the transition agreement reached last November that paved the way for the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the election in February of a new president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. 
“It is definitely meant today as a message to those who are trying to block a transition that we have this tool to use against them and that they should think again about the policies that they are pursuing,” the State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said.
For all of Obama's talk of transparency, there seems to be little of it here. I'm sure there is a list of organizations or individuals with whom it would be illegal to conduct business with, but for whatever reason, Treasury and the executive branch do not want to release it. This is not that surprising, coming from an administration whose Attorney General does not believe that "due process" means "judicial process."

Why these details were deposited into the back of a New York Times article, instead of in an op-ed or in a wider expose of a baffling executive order escapes me. How can someone break the law if the authorities refuse to tell people what it is? Maybe we will just have to wait for someone to leak the details of blacklisted Yemeni names to find out who to avoid to stay within the letter of the law.

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