Dear America – a message from your leader

Dear America – full size 

Bush v. Constitution 

Repeatedly through our history, the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution have been threatened in war by an overreacting government and then reaffirmed in peace by calmer leadership. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, the suppression of free speech during and after World War I, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, McCarthyism, and the wiretapping of Vietnam-era dissenters — all of these came to be seen, once fears subsided, as violations of our freedoms and embarrassments to our heritage.

George W. Bush’s presidency is another era of overreaction at the expense of constitutional rights, but the prospects for a quick correction are not auspicious. Nothing has helped end earlier bouts of repression so much as the fact that the wars themselves came to a close, and nothing has so exposed our liberties to indefinite jeopardy as the conception of a “war on terrorism” with no end.

The president claims an inherent power to imprison American citizens whom he has determined to be this country’s enemies without obtaining a warrant, letting them hear the charges against them, or following other safeguards against wrongful punishment guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Under his administration, the government has engaged in inhumane treatment of prisoners that amounts to torture, and when Congress passed legislation to ban such treatment, he declared he would simply interpret the law his own way. Although the Constitution says treaties are the “supreme law of the land,” the president has abrogated them on his own. And, we now know, he ordered a secret program of electronic surveillance of Americans without court warrants.

But there is something more dangerous than any of these specific abuses and usurpations, and that is the theory of inherent powers that Bush invokes to justify most of these actions and the possibility of its being effectively institutionalized by a meek Congress and, worst of all, by a deferential Supreme Court.

My concern is analogous to the one that Justice Robert H. Jackson articulated when he dissented from the majority in Korematsu, the infamous Supreme Court decision in the midst of war (1944) upholding the constitutionality of the military order to intern Japanese Americans. A judicial construction sustaining the program, he wrote, “is a far more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself.” For by rationalizing the order, “the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.”

The real danger today is the loaded weapon that Bush and his defenders are willing to put in the hands of all future presidents. Even members of his own party ought to be able to see that danger, and act to stop it.

And remember Bush’s own words expressed contempt for the document on which our nation and its values are based,

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

In case you haven’t heard, House Approves Wiretap Measure

“There are a lot of people who felt we had to pass something,” said one angry Democratic lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of caucus discussions. “It was tantamount to being railroaded.”

In a sole substantial concession to Democrats, the administration agreed to a provision allowing the legislation to be reconsidered in six months.

Some House Democrats were still upset by what they saw as a deliberate scuttling by the White House of negotiations on a compromise bill. On Thursday, Democratic leaders reached what they believed was a deal with the government’s chief intelligence official, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, only to be presented with a new list of conditions at the last minute. The White House and McConnell have denied that a deal had been reached.

“I think the White House didn’t want to take ‘yes’ for an answer from the Democrats,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), an intelligence committee member.

And Marty Lederman notes, Senate Passes Administration Bill [UPDATED with Link to and Analysis of S.1927]

The key provision of S.1927 is new section 105A of FISA (see page 2), which categorically excludes from FISA’s requirements any and all “surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States.

This is what should bother everyone, that the already very accommodating FISA Court is pushed further out of the picture. FISA in itself could be described as pushing the limits of the Fourth Amendment. So to now push even that small measure of oversight protection against government excess is nudged aside. At some point and this might be that point, we as a nation make so many concessions of our Constitutional safe guards and freedoms that we become a nation centered on false promises of safety by any means necessary and democracy is shut away in the back of the closet, a remnant of nostalgic ideals about democracy.

The usual assortment of folks that a regular disdain for fact checking had gone off about how a soldier was allegedly treated badly at the YearlyKos Convention. I didn’t post about it right away because with the Right you have to wait for the smoke to clear. Turns out that the gentleman was alloted special time and treatment in order to state his case. More then you can imagine the Right would allow. As a matter of fact we know that anyone that has served their country in our military that refuses to carry the wing-nut’s water will inevitably get the Swiftboat treatment, What Really Happened at the YearlyKos Military Panel
Pajamas Pravda even acknowledges that the Sargent was breaking the military code of conduct , but, but, but is all they have. Who would ever guess that someone would have a difference of opinion. The Rightie blogs hypocrisy is glaring; this Sargent tells them what they want to hear and he’s a walking saint who cannot be disagreed with, yet Scott Beauchamp was treated like a rat and the Right were the vicious attackers. Remember that its not the uniform they respect its the Right’s agenda. Time and again we’ve seen what happens to former and current military members, many of them decorated heroes when they dare not to march in lock step with the Right.

“Technically, he was right,” Aguina concedes. “He is a commissioned officer in the army and I follow the rules. I will respect his authority which is why today, I came in civilian uniform.”

The folks that just let Scooter Libby get away with a felony are looking for a leaker. All part of their war on irony, Looking For a Leaker

Aug. 13, 2007 issue – The controversy over President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program took another surprise turn last week when a team of FBI agents, armed with a classified search warrant, raided the suburban Washington home of a former Justice Department lawyer. The lawyer, Thomas M. Tamm, previously worked in Justice’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR)—the supersecret unit that oversees surveillance of terrorist and espionage targets. The agents seized Tamm’s desktop computer, two of his children’s laptops and a cache of personal files. Tamm and his lawyer, Paul Kemp, declined any comment. So did the FBI. But two legal sources who asked not to be identified talking about an ongoing case told NEWSWEEK the raid was related to a Justice criminal probe into who leaked details of the warrantless eavesdropping program to the news media.

As The Anonymous Liberal points out (Selective Leak Investigations) its whistle blowing if the leak was to expose illegal activity.

Moreover, the administration itself recently leaked classified information on these very same activities in a transparent effort to push back against charges that the Attorney General perjured himself. Where’s the criminal probe? And I look forward to the raid of House Minority Leader John Boehner’s residence in response to his divulging the existence of the secret FISA court opinion on Fox News the other day.

“A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” – John F. Kennedy