Belaboring the Obvious

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

... Mordor, everywhere you go.... *sigh* And not a great grey Gandalf to be seen, not even on the horizon, and the Democrats in Congress don't understand that Bush and Cheney have the ring.

I went to bed last night thinking about all the excesses that have been reported recently, only to wake up to one of the biggest yet--the latest NSA snooping as reported by USA Today. In reading all the analysis of this story, I didn't want to jump to any conclusions about the legal matters. What needs to be said, though, is that, while large, while important, this apparently illegal program is still a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself.

It ought to be obvious, but the mainstream press, these days, has rarely gotten right the ABCs of cause and effect. There have been so many instances of the press trying to look at events in isolation, perhaps hoping that when the story burns itself out, they can go on to something else (the ho-hum press reaction to the various Downing Street memos comes immediately to mind in this regard).

What is going on here are not events in isolation, but acts working in concert with each other, and all point back to two inescapable conclusions: that Bush and the people around him have seized the power of government and do not intend to give it up, and second, that there is a pattern of proof for that assertion.

Certainly, there is a sort of evil symbiosis at work in the decision to operate government in this fashion. Bush isn't bright enough to think this out by himself, jokes about dictatorships being "a heckuva lot easier" notwithstanding. But, what Bush does have is a cadre of dedicated revolutionaries around him, and the weight and power of the Executive Branch, which, these days, is considerable, and, as importantly, a staff of sycophants who never provide him with any measure of feedback from the real world. All these people have conspired to aid Bush in fulfilling his "messianic vision."

Bush likely thinks he is singlehandedly saving the world, and for that reason, arguments about civil rights in this country fall on his very deaf ears. In Bush's hierarchy of values, those rights are arbitrary in comparison to the need to defend the world from terror. Like the major in Vietnam that said, after the destruction of Ben Tre, that "it became necessary to destroy the village to save it," Bush and his cadre will destroy the United States to save it from terror. Then, and now, that kind of thinking can only be described for what it is--psychotic.

As for that pattern of activity, it's necessary to note that Bush has never wanted his decisions to be challenged intellectually or legally, especially in the courts:

  • After years in detention without legal assistance or access to the courts, Yaser Hamdi's case was going to be forced into the court system. Bush's lawyers simply cut him loose and deported him to Saudi Arabia in exchange for him renouncing his US citizenship.
  • Jose Padilla was held in military detention without trial or access to counsel for several years. When it was apparent that the Supreme Court would have to hear his appeal, Bush's lawyers mooted the legal case by transferring him to civilian control and charging him with a completely different set of crimes than those under which he was detained by the military. The cases of both Hamdi and Padilla would have forced the courts to address Bush's arbitrary powers to detain American citizens without habeas corpus, had the government not intentionally short-circuited the legal process.
  • Bush's lawyers have effectively prevented any court challenge of the breadth of warrantless wiretapping by invoking states secrets privilege in the case brought by the Electronic Freedom Foundation against AT&T, even though the government was not a party in that suit.
  • States secrets privilege was invoked in the case of Maher Arer, the Canadian citizen of Syrian descent who was kidnapped by the government, detained and then deported to Syria where he was tortured. This privilege was clearly invoked to avoid court challenge of the so-called extraordinary rendition program.
  • There is a strong possibility of the invocation of states secrets privilege in an Oregon case as a last-ditch measure to prevent exposure of government wiretapping excesses. That case involves classified information supplied during discovery to a lawyer, Tom Nelson, representing the lawyers of an Islamic charity who are suing the government, claiming that the government illegally wiretapped privileged attorney-client phone conversations. The document in question was not declassified, and from descriptions by principals in the case, would indicate, at the very least, that the government had illegally eavesdropped on private domestic phone calls without warrant, contrary to public statements by both Bush and Attorney General Gonzales. At any rate, the government is actively seeking to prevent disclosure of the government's illegal actions. That desperation may even have included attempted break-ins of Nelson's offices and home in attempts to retrieve the proof of the government's illegal behavior.
  • The DoJ is now actively seeking investigations and court cases against private citizen recipients of leaked information relating to national security. The prospect of jailing and trying reporters under the Espionage Act for exposing administration wrongdoing is a quantum leap beyond accepted practice over the last century.
  • The NSA has summarily rejected requests for clearances for lawyers in the DoJ's Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the classified legal opinions produced by the DoJ regarding NSA wiretapping programs, despite the fact that ordinary telco technicians, necessary to monitor and maintain equipment used for spying, have received clearances.
  • When a few Congressional members demanded, as part of their oversight responsibilities, a list of those members of Congress briefed on the NSA spying plans, and the dates of those briefings, the Bush administration compiled that list--and then classified it so that it was not available to those seeking the information.
  • When the prospective nominee to head the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, was asked by a reporter during a National Press Club briefing in January if the NSA program had targeted political opponents of the administration, the general simply stared at the reporter for a few moments, and then asked for another question from someone else.

All these issues are greatly more complicated by Bush's assertions, through his lawyers, that these are Article II powers due the Commander-in-Chief in time of war. There's only one problem with that--Bush himself declared that war, and on an abstraction, besides. This is not to diminish the human losses in the conflicts Bush has initiated, but, legally, there has been no declaration of war, an act which may only be accomplished by Congress. Bush has, either in his own mind or in the minds of his personal lawyers, declared that war himself, and all legal argument depending on his own declaration is specious.

More importantly, Bush has sought, at every opportunity, to do all this in secret--avoiding oversight by other branches of government. A wholly partisan Congress can be faulted for its complicity in this along with a weak "loyal" opposition, but the salient fact is that in those areas requiring oversight cooperation, the Bush administration has done everything required to frustrate oversight of any kind.

What's the conclusion on the basis of the evidence? Bush is legally and Constitutionally out of control, and far beyond any normal means of constraint. If one believes that, it can mean only one thing--Constitutionally, the situation can only get worse over time, not better. Accretion of power in one man, controlling the entirety of the government through the Executive Branch, is the definition of tyranny.

We are already in a state of tyranny now. It is not something which is destined to afflict us at some indeterminate point in the future. It is in effect, here, now. The recent past is not a path toward that end. Rather, it is evidence of being in the state of tyranny.

There is only one Constitutional remedy for this situation, a remedy specifically intended for the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. If the partisans in Congress cannot bring themselves to use the tools available, they themselves are tyrants, too, or complicit in the aims of the tyrant, and the public must remove them by the Constitutional means available--the vote.

Folks, it's not something that's coming. It's already here. We are already up to our asses in orcs.


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