Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bush Administration Secret Legal Opinions Reveal War Against Constitution

Every time one believes that the entire tale of Bush administration destructiveness and incompetence has finally been told, another layer is revealed. Never assume that the sordidness in conduct and policy and the damage done to the country over the past eight years have been completely exposed. That includes the latest revelations below.

George W. Bush said the following when he was sworn in: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." A recent article in The New York Times reveals the extent to which, far from protecting and defending the Constitution, Bush did all he could to circumvent it:

"The secret legal opinions issued by Bush administration lawyers after the Sept. 11 attacks included assertions that the president could use the nation’s military within the United States to combat terrorism suspects and to conduct raids without obtaining search warrants.

"That opinion was among nine that were disclosed publicly for the first time Monday by the Justice Department, in what the Obama administration portrayed as a step toward greater transparency.

"The opinions reflected a broad interpretation of presidential authority, asserting as well that the president could unilaterally abrogate foreign treaties, ignore any guidance from Congress in dealing with detainees suspected of terrorism, and conduct a program of domestic eavesdropping without warrants."

The article also states that the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches was disregarded in favor of the use of force to carry out raids on terrorists; the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech and the press may be overridden "to wage war successfully"; Congress could not stop the president from transferring detainees to other countries, known as rendition, or interfere with the president's determination of the treatment of detainees.

John C. Yoo, shown above, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Council, and Robert J. Delahunty, special council in the office, wrote the opinion authorizing domestic use of the military. Mr. Yoo also wrote a memorandum advocating that, according to the article, "...judicial precedents approving deadly force in self-defense could be extended to allow for eavesdropping without warrants."

Clearly, the Obama administration's commitment to greater transparency has allowed American citizens to see the extent to which our Constitutional rights were threatened by a lawless administration. Writing in Harper's Magazine on "George W. Bush's Disposable Constitution," Scott Horton comes to stark conclusions regarding the abrogation of rights we take for granted:

John Yoo’s Constitution is unlike any other I have ever seen. It seems to consist of one clause: appointing the President as commander-in-chief. The rest of the Constitution was apparently printed in disappearing ink.

...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.

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