Friday, March 06, 2009

Presidential Dictatorship

Earlier this week the Office of Legal Council released memos outlining policies from the Bush administration.

From Marc Ambinder...

On Monday, the Obama administration released nine previously secret legal opinions crafted by the Office of Legal Counsel to enhance the presidential powers of George W. Bush. The legal memos represent the most comprehensive demonstration yet of the sweeping definition of presidential power approved by Bush administration lawyers in the months after 9/11. They also lend added urgency to Wednesday's Senate hearing on the possible formation of a truth commission to investigate potential abuses of power in the Bush White House.
Scott Horton of Harper's writes...

It’s pretty clear that it served several purposes. Clearly it was designed to authorize sweeping warrantless surveillance by military agencies such as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. Using special new surveillance programs that required the collaboration of telecommunications and Internet service providers, these agencies were sweeping through the emails, IMs, faxes, and phone calls of tens of millions of Americans. Clearly such unlawful surveillance occurred. But the language of the memos suggest that much more was afoot, including the deployment of military units and military police powers on American soil. These memos suggest that John Yoo found a way to treat the Posse Comitatus Act as suspended.

These memos gave the President the ability to authorize the torture of persons held at secret overseas sites. And they dealt in great detail with the plight of Jose Padilla, an American citizen seized at O’Hare Airport. Padilla was accused of being involved in a plot to make and detonate a “dirty bomb,” but at trial it turned out that the Bush Administration had no evidence to stand behind its sensational accusations.
It is Horton's conlcusion that is most shocking...
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.
From Andrew Sullivan...

Jack Balkin sums up the legal and constitutional view that prevailed from 2001 to 2009:

The President, because he is President, may do whatever he thinks is necessary, even in the domestic context, if he acts for military and national security reasons in his capacity as Commander in Chief. 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.

Investigate. Expose. Prosecute.

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