s'funny how what sounded impossible a coupl'a years ago sounds like a slam-dunk today ...
nader: what about the more serious violations of habeas corpus. you know after 9-11 bush rounded up thousands of them, americans, many of them muslim americans or arabic americans and they were thrown in jail without charges, they didn't have lawyers, some of them were pretty mistreated in new york city. you know they were all released eventually. napolitano: correct. nader: is that what you mean also about throwing people in jail without charges violating habeas corpus? napolitano: well that is so obviously a violation of the natural law, the natural right to be brought before a neutral arbiter within moments of the government taking your freedom away from you. and the constitution itself, as the supreme court in the boumediene case pretty much said, wherever the government goes, the constitution goes with it and wherever the constitution goes are the rights of the constitution as a guarantee and habeas corpus cannot be suspended by the president ever. it can only be suspended by the congress in times of rebellion which in read milligan says meaning rebellion of such magnitude that judges can't get into their court houses. that has not happened in american history.
so what president bush did with the suspension of habeas corpus, with the whole concept of guantanamo bay, with the whole idea that he could avoid and evade federal laws, treaties, federal judges and the constitution was blatantly unconstitutional and is some cases criminal.
nader: what's the sanction for president bush and vice president cheney? napolitano: there's been no sanction except what history will say about them. nader: what should be the sanctions? napolitano: they should have been indicted. they absolutely should have been indicted for torturing, for spying, for arresting without warrants. i'd like to say they should be indicted for lying but believe it or not, unless you're under oath, lying is not a crime. at least not an indictable crime. it's a moral crime. nader: so you think george w. bush and dick cheney should even though they've left office, they haven't escaped the criminal laws, they should be indicted and prosecuted? napolitano: the evidence in this book and in others, our colleague the great vincent bugliosi has amassed an incredible amount of evidence. the purpose of this book was not to amass that evidence but i do discuss it, is overwhelming when you compare it to the level of evidence required for a normal indictment that george w. bush as president and dick cheney as vice president participated in criminal conspiracies to violate the federal law and the guaranteed civil liberties of hundreds, maybe thousands of human beings.
(hat tip to crooks and liars)
Monday, July 12, 2010
Friday, July 25, 2008
for a modest president of a modest nation, offered to firedoglake's jane hamsher by constitutional lawyer bruce fein:
jane: ... so, ah, george bush pardons everybody on the way out the door, there's a new president: what would you like to see happen in a new administration, in order to be able to look back, and i'm assuming that you're not one of the people who says "let bygones be bygones, let's all look forward" ... ? bruce: the first thing the president ought to do is announce that we don't have any war against international terrorism, that these are criminals, and we will treat them as criminals, we'll capture them as criminals, and try them, prosecute them, and punish them as criminals.
second thing he should do is say "i don't have any power to detain americans as enemy combatants, ah, we either charge you with [a] crime or let you alone."
third thing he'd say "i do not have any power to violate federal laws in gathering foreign intelligence. i can't commit torture, i can't violate fisa, i can't open your mail, except in accordance with what congress has prescribed."
fourth thing he should say is "i'm not gonna invoke execute privilege and use secrecy to prevent you from knowing what i'm doing. absent weapons systems, my government will be transparent, and i'll make certain all my officials come and testify before congress. there may be need for executive sessions, if there's sensitive information, but i will not claim executive privilege and hide from congress anything."
another thing that he should say is "i do not have authority to engage in extraordinary rendition. i can't go abroad and simply kidnap people, stick them in an interrogation chamber, torture them, dump them out without any political or legal recourses. and i won't do that. that is a formula for returning the world to a hobbesian state of nature, and authorizing other foreign governments to kidnap americans who might be sympathetic to some indigenous force, chechens in russia for instance, or tibetans in china.
and the fifth thing he should say is "i'm shutting down the military commissions in guantanamo. all those people charged will be moved to civilian, ah, sector for trial consistent with due process, and all the guantanamo bay detainees will have a right to habeas corpus and i'm not detaining even non-citizens as enemy combatants. if i think i have evidence they've committed a crime, i prosecute them, otherwise, y'know, they can go back."
and perhaps the most important thing — i don't have enough time to fully amplify on this idea — is to say "the united states of america chief, really cardinal mission, is to protect america and make it a more perfect union. we don't need and it doesn't make us safer to have a military footprint all over the globe. and i will work to eliminate all of our foreign troops abroad. defense will mean we'll have a defense against anyone who wants to attack us. if anyone attacks us, we'll incinerate them, but other than that, we, um, wish other people in the world happiness and freedom but we're not gonna sacrifice our men and women to protect the lives of people who have no loyalty, no taxes that pay to the united states, they're not u.s. citizens or who aren't involved in any way. we don't go abroad in search of dragons, as john quincy adams said in 1826, to project our power abroad. it's that, that craving for international stature and prestige that's caused disaster to the constitution of the united states," and i'd want to see a president of the united states say "that era is over."
"now i'm a president of modesty. i don't want to leave my footprints in the sands of time based upon fighting wars and attempting to transform the world in our own image. we've got enough problems making ourselves a more perfect union, and i'm not gonna do something that i don't know how to do, and in any event, it's not up to me to risk men and women's lives for a people who owe no loyalty to the united states."
that is what i'd like to see. now regards to the people who are outgoing? i'd want to say the president should announce that he certainly will open criminal investigations if there was wrongdoing in the prior administration, ah, and he's gonna make certain that and pledge that he would expect a succeeding administration after his to do the same, if his administration committed any wrongdoing. um, and so he's not gonna hold this administration up to any more immunity than he would grant a predecessor administration.
jane: i hope we get that president.
Monday, October 02, 2006
if anyone is still a little puzzled why president bush has invested so much of his waning political capital into an end run around the geneva convention, it's not just to save himself the cost of a trip to the hague, although that alone would certainly be reason enough.
juan cole relates a most enlightening lecture delivered by former uk ambassador to uzbekistan craig murray at a recent academic symposium on central eurasia:
the bush administration has been about "the greater middle east" (including central asia). it has been about basing rights in those areas. it says it is fighting a "war on terror" that is unlike past wars and may go on for decades. it has been about rounding up and torturing large numbers of iraqis, afghans and others. this region has most of the world's proven oil and gas reserves.
why is the bush administration so attached to torturing people that it would pressure a supine congress into raping the us constitution by explicitly permitting some torture techniques and abolishing habeas corpus for certain categories of prisoners?
... boys and girls, it is because torture is what provides evidence for large important networks of terrorists where there aren't really any, or aren't very many, or aren't enough to justify 800 military bases and a $500 billion military budget.
boys and girls, is there any doubt that when this chapter of american history has been committed to ink that it will catalogue the war on terror with the spanish inquistion and the salem witch trials?
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
to celebrate the 230th birthday of the united states, juan cole is having a little holiday contest. can you identify how many of the complaints which thomas jefferson and his fellow signatories leveled against king george and britain in the declaration of independence could be leveled against george bush and his administration by current american and/or iraqi citizens?
the first one on jefferson's list is easy:
he has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good
this complaint against the department of homeland security is oddly comical in its archaic construction:
he has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance
while these offenses of the military occupation should be familiar to the iraqis:
he has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
- for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us
- for protecting them, by a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states
and these offenses familiar to the anonymous captives at guantanamo bay and hidden elsewhere in once-abandoned gulags scattered around the globe.
- for depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of trial by jury
- for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences
jefferson's list is quite long. for now, the rest of king george's crimes i leave to you.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
it's saturday night, so let's tune into the not-ready-for-prime-time players. but it's not the cast of nbc's saturday night live we'll be watching, though this season's replacements from washington d.c. — that tragicomic capital of calumny and calamity — should prove as entertaining as the originals, if nothing else. we should by now be used to nothing else.
as i forewarned in my post "elegy", the constitutional crisis facing the country can only be resolved by congress' resumption of its responsibilities to both its constituents and itself as a concrete bulwark against any encroachment on its powers and duties by either of the other two branches of government — in these circumstances, the encroachments of the bush administration against the nation's time-tested system of checks and balances.
as glenn greenwald argues with his characteristic clarity — and frustration — in his post "a new low — the senate seeks to 'pardon' the president for past lawbreaking", from which i excerpt liberally, the 109th congress, especially as represented by senate intelligence committee chair arlen specter, is not quite ready for prime time:
observing and commenting on the behavior of arlen specter is one of the most unpleasant obligations a person can have, but for anyone following the nsa eavesdropping scandal specifically, and the bush administration's abuses of executive power generally, it is a necessary evil. the principal reason that the bush administration has been able to impose its radical theories of lawbreaking on the country is because congress, with an unseemly eagerness, has permitted itself to be humiliated over and over by an administration which does not hide its contempt for the notion that congress has any role to play in limiting and checking the executive branch. and few people have more vividly illustrated that institutional debasement than arlen specter, who, along with pat roberts, has done more than anyone else to ensure that congress completely relinquishes its constitutional powers to the president.
congressional abdication is so uniquely damaging because the founders assumed that congress would naturally and instinctively resist encroachments by the executive, and the resulting institutional tension — the inevitable struggle for power between the branches — is what would preserve governmental balance and prevent true abuses of power. but for the last five years, congress has done the opposite of what the founders envisioned. they have meekly submitted to the almost total elimination of their role in our government and have quietly accepted consolidation of their powers in the president.
if the congress is unmoved by their constitutional responsibilities, then at least basic human dignity ought to compel them to object to the administration's contempt for the laws they pass. after all, the laws which the administration claims it can ignore and has been breaking are their laws. the senate passed fisa by a vote of 95-1, and the mccain torture ban by a vote of 90-9, and it is those laws which the president is proclaiming he will simply ignore. and yet not only have they not objected, they have endorsed and even celebrated the president's claimed power to ignore the laws passed by congress. and that failure, more than anything else, is what has brought us to the real constitutional crisis we face as a result of having a president who claims the power to operate outside of, and above, the law.
a bill proposed yesterday by arlen specter to resolve the nsa scandal — literally his fifth or sixth proposed bill on this subject in the last few months — would drag the congress to a new low of debasement. according to the washington post, specter has introduced a bill "that would give president bush the option of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the national security agency." this proposal is the very opposite of everything specter has saying for the last several months:specter's approach modifies his earlier position that the nsa eavesdropping program, which targets international telephone calls and e-mails in which one party is suspected of links to terrorists, must be subject to supervision by the secret court set up under the foreign intelligence surveillance act (fisa).a law which makes it "an option" — rather than a requirement — for the government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping is about as meaningless of a law as can be imagined.
but that complete change of heart by specter is not even nearly the most corrupt part of his proposed bill. for pure corruption and constitutional abdication, nothing could match this:another part of the specter bill would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law.the idea that the president's allies in congress would enact legislation which expressly shields government officials, including the president, from criminal liability for past lawbreaking is so reprehensible that it is difficult to describe.
... what makes this proposed amnesty so particularly indefensible is that specter himself has spent the last two months loudly complaining about the fact that he — along with the rest of the country — has been denied any information about how this illegal, secret eavesdropping has been conducted. has that power been abused? has it been exercised for political, rather than national security, reasons? before one even considers shielding those responsible for this lawbreaking from liability, wouldn't one have to at least know the answer to those questions?
... specter receives substantial criticism because of the flamboyant way in which he engages in what can only be described as sado-masochistic rituals with the administration. he pretends to exercise independence only to get beaten into extreme submission, and then returns eagerly for more. it is as unpleasant to watch as it is damaging to our country. but specter's unique psychological dramas should not obscure the fact that it is the entire congress which has failed in its responsibilities to take a stand against this president's lawbreaking and abuses, and there is plenty of blame to go around in both parties. the reason the president has been allowed to exert precisely the type of unrestrained power which the founders sought, first and foremost, to avoid, is because the congress has allowed him to.
to glenn's further consternation, it looks like the post may have only imagined the heinous amnesty proposal in specter's bill:
before i wrote the post, i searched for the actual text of specter's bill in order to read it myself, but could not find it (specter's website is one of the worst sites for any senator, as it is usually a month or more behind). as a result, my post ... was based upon the post's reporting about specter's bill, rather than my own reading of it.
i have now had a chance to review the actual text of specter's bill and cannot find any basis for the post's claim that it contains an amensty [sic] provision for past violations of the law. ... there is simply nothing in it which supports the post's report.
glenn had good cause to be cautious — this wasn't the first time that the post bungled the reading of the ever-multiplying proposals spawning from the senate intelligence committee:
before i wrote the post on friday, i was very reluctant to post anything about specter's bill in reliance on the report of the washington post. that's because the post previously published a front-page article about another fisa-related bill, this one proposed by sen. michael dewine, which was completely inaccurate about what the bill actually provided — not with regard to minor details of the bill, but with regard to its fundamental provisions.
this is what happened. on march 17, the post published a front-page article by charles babington regarding the proposed legislation introduced by dewine (co-sponsored by sens. snowe, hagel, and graham), which was offered by those senators as the "compromise" solution when the republicans on the senate intelligence committee refused to hold hearings to investigate the nsa warrantless eavesdropping program. the post article falsely depicted this gop bill as vesting oversight power in the congress to stop warrantless eavesdropping, even though the bill provided nothing of the kind.
specifically, the post article claimed — erroneously — that the bill would allow the administration to engage in warrantless eavesdropping only if a newly formed senate intelligence subcommittee approves of the program's renewal every 45 days. in fact, the legislation provided nothing of the sort. it gave no power whatsoever to any senate committee to approve or disapprove of warrantless eavesdropping. contrary to the post's front-page claim, that legislation would have vested no power whatsoever in the congress (or the courts) to stop the warrantless eavesdropping. it merely required that the administration "brief" the subcommittee, but the subcommittee (along with everyone else) would be completely powerless under that bill to stop the administration from engaging in warrantless eavesdropping.
on that day, i first read the post article about this proposed legislation, but then found the legislation itself and read it. it was very clear that the post was simply wrong in what it told its readers on its front page about this significant legislation — wrong about the legislation's fundamentals.