Friday, December 16, 2005

An Incredible Day in America

Here's a short and pithy little post on Huffington's website. A fellow I don't even know, Martin Garbus, writes how today two amazing things happened.

One, the supposed Bush/McCain comprimise was not, as widely reported, a case of Bush capitulating to McCain and outlawing torture.

Rather, it was the establishment of a titanic "legal excuse" for torture -- all the accused has to do is say a "reasonable" person in that situation would think it was ok to do it. Sort of like "I was just following orders, so I figured it was ok."

Who figures out what is "reasonable?" Sounds like it's the very agency accused of sanctioning torture.

Of course, this doesn't change international law, which, since Nuremburg, has outlawed torture, and which is US law.

Two, in the words of Mr. Garbus:

Secondly, the President in authorizing surveillance without seeking a court order has committed a crime. The Federal Communications Act criminalizes surveillance without a warrant. It is an impeachable offense. This was also totally missed by the media.

As someone later comments on the blog, how exactly does this compare with Nixon, being impeached by over a cover-up of one illegal break-in which he ordered? Let's see. Bush has not only authorized 500 illegal wiretaps at a time, but then pressured the media to not report it for a year.

Sounds like an impeachable offense to me.

Senator Diane Feinstein doesn't quite go that far, but in her statement on the issue she gets as animated as I've ever heard her to be about the illegality of the administration's actions.

What seem to gall her is that at the same time she was defending the Patriot Act and the US government to her constituents who feared the immense power that the Act gave the president, telling those constituents that we are a nation that respects the rule of law, the administration was ignoring the need for authorization from the FISA court, authorization demanded by Congress itself.

The way she put it was:

I was heartened when Senator Specter also said that he believed that if the New York Times report is true -- and the fact that they have withheld the story for a year leads me to believe it is true, and I have heard no denunciation of it by the administration -- then it is inappropriate, it is a violation of the law.

How can I go out, how can any Member of this body go out, and say that under the PATRIOT Act we protect the rights of American citizens if, in fact, the President is not going to be bound by the law, which is the FISA court?

And there are no exceptions to the FISA court.

She goes on to say, "I am so proud of this Government because we are governed by the rule of law, and so few countries can really claim that."

What I'd like the Senator to explain is how she, or any other congressperson, can at this point justify our very presence in Iraq, a sovereign country, which we have invaded and overthrown and occupied. Preventing such acts is the very basis of international law. How exactly do our actions in Iraq today square with being governed by the rule of law?

Bush, Cheney, and Rice can say that any "reasonable" person would have thought it was OK. But what can those who actually believe in the rule of law say?


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