Young Mr. Bush appears intent to remain a law unto himself.
Last week a senior Department of Defense official and certain media outlets launched a campaign to discourage attorneys with major law firms from representing detainees at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay. For years, the administration and its supporters in Congress and the media have fought to deprive these detainees from protections and rights to due process guaranteed by international and U.S. law. Yet, as civil rights lawyer Joseph Margulies points out in the Chicago Tribune, it's uncertain whether any of the 400 "unlawful combatants" still at Guantanamo did anything to warrant their imprisonment.
Bush administration officials have assured the American people that Guantanamo keeps us safe because it keeps dangerous Al Qaeda terrorists off the street.
But the Pentagon's data show that only 8 percent of the prisoners at the base are even alleged to have been Al Qaeda fighters--assuming the allegations against them are true.
Bait and Switch
Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen arrested as a "combatant" in 2002, was accused of being part of a plot to explode radioactive "dirty bombs" in U.S. cities. In 2005, in order to avoid a showdown in the Supreme Court over the legality of Padilla's detention, the government pressed formal charges against Padilla in federal court. But the charges did not include involvement in the "dirty bomb" plot. Padilla was charged instead as a conspirator in a number of Islamic extremist plots to commit terror in Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere during the 1990s.
The judge in the Padilla case has postponed the trial for three months to allow the prosecution time to assess Padilla's mental condition. Padilla's attorneys claim that the interrogation techniques used on him for over three years of isolated incarceration have left him unable to assist in his own defense.
In December 2005, we discovered that Mr. Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps on U.S. citizens without court orders. At the time, Mr. Bush said that he would continue to authorize the warrantless wiretaps.
In August 2006, a federal district court ruled the NSA program's warrantless wiretapping and e-mail monitoring was unconstitutional. Mr. Bush disagreed with the ruling, and ordered the Justice Department to appeal the decision. The warrantless electronic monitoring program is still in operation.
Mr. Bush has said that "If Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know why they are calling." On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable statement. But neither Mr. Bush nor any of his echo chamberlains have bothered to explain why they need to monitor communications without warrants which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows to be obtained 72 hours after the fact.
The Bush administration also insists it has authority to open first class mail without a warrant.
Libby, Libby, Libby on the Table, Table, Table
The trial of former Dick Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby has finally commenced. At the Huffington Post, Timothy Naftali says that "Whether I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby is found guilty or not, his trial will finally allow the public to see how the Office of the Vice President led the Bush Administration's domestic agitprop campaign to get us into Iraq."
I'm not so sure about that. Yes, the Valerie Plame/Nigergate/traitorgate scandal was always about much, much more than whether someone in the administration purposely revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative. It was about the lengths to which the administration went to protect the intelligence hoax it pulled to sell America on its now discredited Iraq policy. But don't get too het up about the prospect that Libby's trial will bring all that to light.
Libby is on trial for perjuring himself before the grand jury. I strongly suspect that any attempt by the prosecution to push the scope of the trial beyond the perjury charge will get swatted down by the prosecution and the judge like a geriatric fly.
Dick Cheney will be called as a witness in the trial, and many in the info-sphere are abuzz that Cheney will be revealed as the mastermind behind the big Iraq intelligence cook-off, but again, don't count on it. Big Dick's not the one on trial, and any attorney who tries to make him the defendant will get, figuratively or literally, shot in the face.
Cheney will live to continue pulling the same kind of canard on Iran that he pulled with Iraq.
You and Whose Army?
Mr. Bush has made it quite clear that he'll move forward with this plan to escalate the Iraq war whether Congress likes it or not. Some in Congress have threatened to withhold funding for the troop "surge," but Bush claims that Congress has already approved sufficient appropriations to fund it. He's probably right.
At Senate hearings last week, Joe Biden (D-Delaware) warned Condoleezza Rice that Mr. Bush would need congressional authority to initiate military actions against Iran. He's probably wrong. Whether they know it or not, Congress has probably also appropriated enough money for an air and maritime operation against Iran, or at least enough to start such an operation.
The power of the purse, it appears, has been circumvented, and the power of Congress to stop Mr. Bush from expanding his "war" on terror, extremism, Islamo-fabulism or whatever his Rovewellians are calling it these days is otherwise extremely limited. The War Powers Act of 1973 gives a U.S. president a free hand to initiate and conduct combat operations before he needs to ask permission from anybody.
Irony, tossing and turning in its grave, is still asking why nobody has questioned under what authority the recent U.S. air strikes and other offensive operations in Somalia were executed. That makes irony a darn sight more curious about the Bush agenda than Joe Biden or anyone else in Congress seem to be.
America has become a mirror image of Julius Caesar's Rome: we're a militaristic dictatorship disguised under a cheap beard and plastic eyeglasses as a republic.
The courts have spoken. The congress has spoken. The people have spoken. None of that makes no never-mind to our present day tyrant.
The only real difference between Julius Caesar and George W. Bush is that Caesar knew how to use his military successfully.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.