“The grim truth is, not much has changed. The Bush administration continues to limit our basic freedoms, conceal its own worst behavior, and insist that it does all this in order to make us more free.” As a follow-up to her 2006 list of civil liberties violations, Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick surveys The Bush Administration’s Top 10 Stupidest Legal Arguments of 2007.
“James B. Comey, the straight-as-an-arrow former No. 2 official at the Justice Department, yesterday offered the Senate Judiciary Committee an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source.” By way of Medley, the WP blanches at a ridiculous attempt by then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to secure warrantless wiretaps against the will of the Justice Department. “Having failed, they were willing to defy the conclusions of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and pursue the surveillance without Justice’s authorization. Only in the face of the prospect of mass resignations — Mr. Comey, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and most likely Mr. Ashcroft himself — did the president back down.“
“If another nation’s leader adopted such positions, the United States would be quick to condemn him or her for violating fundamental tenets of the rule of law, human rights, and the separation of powers. But President Bush has largely gotten away with it, at least at home, for at least three reasons. His party holds a decisive majority in Congress, making effective political checks by that branch highly unlikely. The Democratic Party has shied away from directly challenging the president for fear that it will be viewed as soft on terrorism. And the American public has for the most part offered only muted objections. These realities make the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, issued on the last day of its 2005-2006 term, in equal parts stunning and crucial.” In related news, as seen at both Salon and Mother Jones (as well as the New York Review of Books), author and law professor David Cole underlines the importance of the Hamdan decision in preserving the rule of law and throttling Dubya’s unchecked power grabs of late.
“The president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently…A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.” I’ve had my issues with the guy, but, y’know, when he’s right, he’s right. As the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Liberties plan lawsuits against the NSA wiretaps, a revived Al Gore calls out Dubya on Snoopgate (Transcript.) Interestingly enough, “Gore was supposed to have been introduced, using a video link, by former congressman Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) — a bitter adversary of Gore and President Bill Clinton during the 1990s who now shares Gore’s concern over the surveillance program. That strange-bedfellows moment was thwarted by a technological breakdown.“
“It appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here,’ the authors of the CRS report wrote. The administration’s legal justification ‘does not seem to be…well-grounded.’” A 44-page nonpartisan report by the Congressional Research Service finds Dubya’s dubious reliance on presidential prerogative to explain away the NSA wiretaps doesn’t hold up.
“‘The fact is, the federal law is perfectly clear,’ Turley says. ‘At the heart of this [NSA wiretap] operation was a federal crime. The president has already conceded that he personally ordered that crime and renewed that order at least 30 times. This would clearly satisfy the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors for the purpose of an impeachment.’” Salon‘s Michelle Goldberg assesses the current political temperature for Dubya’s impeachment. “‘For Republicans to suggest that this is not a legitimate question of federal crimes makes a mockery of their position during the Clinton period. For Republicans, this is the ultimate test of principle.‘” Update: Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick also muses on Dubya’s distaste for the rule of law.
“What I’ve heard some of the judges say is they feel they’ve participated in a Potemkin court.” Allegedly in protest over Dubya’s illegal use of wiretaps, US District Judge James Robertson resigns from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISA court.) Meanwhile, the NYT reports that, despite what the administration is saying, some purely domestic calls were overheard via Dubya’s warrantless wiretaps.
Team Dubya spent the weekend on the offensive regarding the recent disclosure of illegal NSA wiretaps, with Bush saying over and over again that disclosing the wiretaps was “a shameful act” that “damage[d] our national security.” Sheah. That Dubya and his cronies would try to pass off these egregious violations of civil liberties and due process with more dissent is disloyalty garbage (and a frisson of 9/11, 9/11, 9/11) speaks once again to how corrupt and out-of-control this administration has become. Let the investigations commence. Update: Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter weighs in: “Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story — which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year — because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker…If the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced.”
“I don’t want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care.” Aided by today’s shocking revelation that the NSA has been monitoring thousands of international calls without a warrant since 2002, a group of Senators led by Russ Feingold — and including four Republicans (Craig, Hagel, Murkowski, and Sununu) — succeed in defeating an extension of the Patriot Act. At this point, I might as well put a Feingold 2008 banner over on the sidebar — Ever since the McCain-Feingold days, the Senator from Wisconsin has continued to rise in my esteem, and this once again proves his mettle as our most forthright and committed progressive standard-bearer. Bravo!
The secret court overseeing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) rebuff Ashcroft’s plea for increased wiretap powers, and declares the FBI has misled the court over 75 times. Never thought I’d be on the side of a secret court, but there you go. It must be getting really ugly over at Justice if somebody’s leaking this bad boy.