The memo was one of nine previously undisclosed Office of Legal Counsel documents released by Obama's Justice Department yesterday, most of them making baldly spurious legal arguments to support any number of unprecedented tactics that were either contemplated or employed by the White House.
At about the same time the documents were being released, Attorney General Eric Holder was making a speech putting them in context: "Too often over the past decade, the fight against terrorism has been viewed as a zero-sum battle with our civil liberties," Holder said. "Not only is that school of thought misguided, I fear that in actuality it does more harm than good. I have often said that the test of a great nation is whether it will adhere to its core values not only when it is easy, but also when it is hard....
"There is no reason we cannot wage an effective fight against those who have sworn to harm us while we respect our most honored constitutional traditions. We can never put the welfare of the American people at risk but we can also never choose actions that we know will weaken the legal and moral fiber of our nation.""This theory of presidential power argues, in essence, that when the President acts in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, he may make his own rules and cannot be bound by Congressional laws to the contrary. This is a theory of presidential dictatorship.
"These views are outrageous and inconsistent with basic principles of the Constitution as well as with two centuries of legal precedents. Yet they were the basic assumptions of key players in the Bush Administration in the days following 9/11."
Scott Horton blogs for Harper's: "We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it."
The article linked at the top has links to many more reactions.
If Obama's only success is to clean up this legal mess, he will already have accomplished great work...