Obama and Bush should dine together and share ideas about torture

The similarity between Barack Obama and George W. Bush in their prosecution of the “war on terror” is increasingly clear.

Just in case it isn’t obvious how deep this illegality goes, here’s Michael Hayden, Mr. Bush’s last CIA director, talking to the Washington Times:

You’ve got state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners at Bagram [in Afghanistan]. And although it is slightly different, Obama has been as aggressive as President Bush in defending prerogatives about who he has to inform in Congress for executive covert action.

Washington’s war on whistle-blowers, or even individuals who dare reveal anything about the failed war in Afghanistan, are also under the pump:

Defense Department officials are negotiating to buy and destroy all 10,000 copies of the first printing of an Afghan war memoir they say contains intelligence secrets, according to two people familiar with the dispute.

The publication of “Operation Dark Heart,” by Anthony A. Shaffer, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has divided military security reviewers and highlighted the uncertainty about what information poses a genuine threat to security.

Disputes between the government and former intelligence officials over whether their books reveal too much have become commonplace. But veterans of the publishing industry and intelligence agencies could not recall another case in which an agency sought to dispose of a book that had already been printed.

Army reviewers suggested various changes and redactions and signed off on the edited book in January, saying they had “no objection on legal or operational security grounds,” and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, planned for an Aug. 31 release.

But when the Defense Intelligence Agency saw the manuscript in July and showed it to other spy agencies, reviewers identified more than 200 passages suspected of containing classified information, setting off a scramble by Pentagon officials to stop the book’s distribution.

Release of the book “could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security,” Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., the D.I.A. director, wrote in an Aug. 6 memorandum. He said reviewers at the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and United States Special Operations Command had all found classified information in the manuscript.

The disputed material includes the names of American intelligence officers who served with Colonel Shaffer and his accounts of clandestine operations, including N.S.A. eavesdropping operations, according to two people briefed on the Pentagon’s objections. They asked not to be named because the negotiations are supposed to be confidential.

By the time the D.I.A. objected, however, several dozen copies of the unexpurgated 299-page book had already been sent out to potential reviewers, and some copies found their way to online booksellers. The New York Times was able to buy a copy online late last week.

The dispute arises as the Obama administration is cracking down on disclosures of classified information to the news media, pursuing three such prosecutions to date, the first since 1985. Separately, the military has charged an Army private with giving tens of thousands of classified documents to the organization WikiLeaks.