Tales from the Trail

Obama draws query by signing Patriot Act extension with auto-pen

What’s a president to do when Congress passes a bill just hours before key anti-terrorism surveillance measures are about to expire and he’s 4,000 miles away?  Auto-pen of course.

For the uninitiated, lawmakers and yes, even the president of the United States, have a  machine that has a real pen which goes over a copy of the person’s actual signature. It is typically used for signing proforma letters or souvenir pictures to send constituents or fans.

Well, President Barack Obama has been in Europe for the annual G-8 summit and Congress was racing to pass legislation extending the authorization of key surveillance methods used to try to thwart attacks on the United States, which were due to expire Thursday night at midnight. Congress came through just hours before midnight but Obama was in France.

The White House released a statement just before midnight saying that the legislation had been signed and a White House aide told Reuters that the auto-pen was used to do so at Obama’s direction.

That prompted at least one lawmaker, Georgia Republican Representative Tom Graves, to question whether that was legal or not, writing Obama a letter seeking clarification.

Arizona immigration law prompts ACLU travel alert

aliensAs Arizona prepares to implement a controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants, the American Civil Liberties Union has issued a travel alert advising visitors to the desert state of their civil rights if stopped by police.

The law requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone that they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally, during the course of lawful contact such as a traffic stop.

Backers of the measure, which takes effect on July 29 barring a successful legal challenge, say it is needed to curb illegal immigration and border-related crime in the state, which is a major corridor for drug and human smuggling from Mexico. Opponents, among them the ACLU, say it is a recipe for racial profiling.

Obama misses a deadline on Guantanamo

Just because a president orders something done, that don’t make it happen.

A year after President Barack Obama ordered the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the facility is still open and holding 196 terrorism suspects the United States has captured.

GUANTANAMO/The president had barely finished celebrating his inauguration when he signed an order Jan. 22, 2009, directing the Guantanamo prison be closed “as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.”

Any inmates still at the prison at the time of closure would be “returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”

ACLU gives Obama mixed first year rights grade

obamaU.S. President Barack Obama has taken some bold steps on civil rights during his first year in office, such as ordering an end to torture and the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison, but his overall record is mixed, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Tuesday. 

The civil rights group said Obama had acted on more than a third of 145 recommendations it made to him when he was elected. The recommendations focused on steps  the president could take on his own without a vote by Congress.

“The Obama administration has made some significant strides toward restoring civil liberties and the rule of law,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero in a statement.

FBI discussed advising Saddam Hussein of legal rights, decided no

Much has been made over the past few months by some Republicans in Congress about whether terrorism suspects arrested overseas by U.S. military forces must be read their legal rights and the answer has been largely no.IRAQ-SADDAM/

It turns out that the issue was debated at least as far back as early 2004 when American forces captured ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to a document released late Friday night under Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A few weeks after the former Iraqi leader was captured hiding in a hole in Tikrit, a memorandum was sent to the FBI’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni, discussing whether Saddam would have to be advised of his legal rights.

Obama to post White House visitor logs on the Internet

Killjoy.

After early signs he might follow the lead of other presidents and keep his White House visitor logs secret, Barack Obama has decided instead he’s going to post them on the Internet.

This, of course, jeopardizes the popular Washington sport of going to court to find out who’s getting face time with the president.

It’s a hallowed tradition observed over many administrations.

OBAMA/President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney waged a valiant struggle to keep their logs secret from groups wanting to know such things as who was influencing energy policy or how much access corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff was given.