- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The discovery of tapes of Sept. 11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated in Morocco has drawn the attention of Justice Department investigators. The tapes were made in 2002 at a facility the CIA used near Rabat and purportedly were found “under a desk” at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Ninety-two other such tapes are said to have been destroyed.

The Justice Department’s dogged quest to root out alleged war criminals raises the question of when it will begin investigating the Obama administration. Mr. Obama’s increasingly public dirty little secret is that he has widened the use of covert actions against terrorists that were pioneered by his predecessor, President George W. Bush. Mr. Obama’s secret war is disturbing mainly to his left-wing base, whose members apparently believed the sanctimonious rhetoric of the early days of the administration, when it seemed that war-crimes show trials against members of the Bush national security team were imminent.

That notion of targeting the previous administration faded quickly, in part because it would have destroyed the gossamer fabric of trust necessary for the intelligence community to operate - and also because Mr. Obama discovered that there are significant advantages to waging a covert war against terrorism. Much of what is being done in the name of the United States would not fit well with Mr. Obama’s finely cultivated internationalist image. Best to keep it out of the public eye. Official secrets mean never having to say you’re sorry.

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Some liberals have lost patience with Mr. Obama and are calling him out on what they see as his hypocrisy. In May, more than 2,000 critics, among them prominent left-wing intellectuals, signed an open statement titled “Crimes Are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them,” which ran in the New York Review of Books, the Nation, the Humanist and Rolling Stone. They took Mr. Obama to task for failing to live up to his human rights rhetoric and in particular were concerned about his reported authorization to terminate with extreme prejudice radical Islamic cleric and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who is holed up in Yemen.

“In some respects, this is worse than Bush,” the statement says, “because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of ‘terrorism,’ merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly.” The radicals also asserted that by failing to prosecute any members of the previous administration for allegedly torturing terrorists detainees, Mr. Obama is complicit in the same crimes. Other critics have assailed him for using the laws of war to justify the CIA’s use of unmanned drones to target terrorist suspects when the intelligence agency is not covered by the Geneva Conventions.

Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mocked Mr. Obama’s critics among the “professional left,” saying, “I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested.” But as President Lyndon Johnson discovered during the Vietnam War, simply being a liberal Democrat doesn’t give a president a blank check with left-wing intellectuals. The credibility gap is alive and well.

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