Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mad Enough To Spit

Everything they teach you in high school is wrong, it seems. Especially since, for the past eight years, we no longer enjoyed much of the Bill of Rights, and the government wasn't telling us they'd suspended it.

Oh sure, there was that mug with the Bill printed on it, of which the parts suspended by the PATRIOT Act would disappear when you poured in your preferred heated beverage. You can make all sorts of excuses about how Congress was stampeded into voting for that piece of work, but there was other paperwork Congress didn't even get a peek at until just a few days ago.

The Obama Administration has released a number of secret Bush Administration documents penned by the Bush DoJ that were effectively the law of the land until just before W left office. These were penned by, among others, John Yoo, but they were not Yoo Memos -- these were laws.

The government secretly suspended the Bill of Rights and didn't tell us about it.

Yes, this sounds like something you'd hear about from the 90s militia movement and tin-foil-hat models the country over. But it actually happened. Glenn Greenwald has the details:

Let's just look at one of those documents (.pdf) -- entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S." It was sent to (and requested by) Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes and authored by Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and DOJ Special Counsel Robert Delahunty ... The essence of this document was to declare that George Bush had the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. It was nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens. And it wasn't only a decree that existed in theory; this secret proclamation that the Fourth Amendment was inapplicable to what the document calls "domestic military operations" was, among other things, the basis on which Bush ordered the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military, to turn inwards and begin spying -- in secret and with no oversight -- on the electronic communications (telephone calls and emails) of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

They basically reasoned that the President speaks, and it becomes law. They specifically weaseled around the Posse Comitatus Act by claiming that the PCA prohibited using the military for police work and claiming that anti-terrorist activities were inherently military in nature.

Good thing our boys and girls in olive drab were up to stopping all the domestic terrorists over the last few years, like all the anthrax mailings, the Beltway Sniper, and the Knoxville UU Church shooting. Warrantless wiretapping sure helped us stop those tragedies.


Sherry said...

Why were these laws? Why weren't the perpetrators outlaws?

If we say these were laws, then aren't we're saying the president does in fact have a right to decree law?

Instead, it seems to me that Bush and his government were acting outside the [actual legislated] law and are therefore criminals.

I fail to understand.

Sherry said...

Oh, and why is the Obama White House reviewing these documents? Why isn't the Obama Justice Department using them as evidence?

Falconer said...

I suppose it would be more accurate to say that the Executive Branch under Bush considered these to be laws. Sidestepping the power of the Legislative like this is just one more piece of evidence that they considered the Legislative Branch unnecessary.

And I don't know why the Obama DOJ isn't pursuing this. There's a definite drumbeat of "look to the future, forget the past" coming out of Washington right now. Maybe we need to hold Obama's feet to the fire -- metaphorically speaking, of course, don't want to be mistaken for a racist ;)