Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Newly Released Secret Laws of the Bush Administration

Two days ago - with not nearly the media coverage or attention one should expect for such revelations - the Obama administration released a series of Department of Justice documents that contained Bush administration decrees with regard to government power that LITERALLY wiped out the 1st and 4th Amendments, and essentially our entire Constitution and the balance of powers concept on which it is based. These are the documents that otherwise served as the Bush Administration's own secret laws - under which each and every one of us were ruled by and lived under for the past eight years.

Now, before I get to the brilliant explanation of these documents and what they mean by Glenn Greenwald of let me just make a few quick, angry, and a bit overwhelmed points (learning that you haven't lived in anything close to a democracy for 8 years has a tendency to rattle me).

First, I just hope everyone that ever – for a second – thought maybe we were being paranoid or too partisan during the Bush years as it related to privacy and civil liberties has realized that if anything, we were too apathetic and trusting. We NOW KNOW, without a doubt, and for a fact, that for the past 8 years we have lived under a tyrannical dictator that essentially put a hold on our Constitution. As Greenwald will layout, not only was the government given carte blanch to wiretap and eavesdrop on us, but hell, the MILITARY had the freedom to smash down our doors and whisk us away if the President alone deemed it appropriate. Now those are what I would call the epitome of "violations of privacy".

These documents probably only scratch the surface of what went on. More are still likely to come out, others perhaps destroyed, and others might never be released. One thing is certain, what we now know has made a mockery of our country and Constitution.

It's more than just a little bit surreal to watch - now that Bush is out of office of course - the corporate media admit or even acknowledge that grotesque violations of our Constitution were commonplace over the past 8 years (though they sure were quiet during those years weren't they?).

So now that its clear we have unknowingly lived in tyranny (conservative constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley appropriately called these documents the very definition of "tyranny") for nearly a decade - in which our right to privacy was literally non-existent - what I'll be watching for is whether these crimes and criminals will be investigated and prosecuted (sadly Obama has tried to cover for them as much as he has expose them), whether our media will just press the national “forget” button by telling us to “look forward and not back” (Ahhh…Orwell would be proud!), and whether our country - and government - will seek to right these wrongs and re-establish privacy as a fundamental right (as well as all that "balance of powers" stuff)?

Constitutional scholar and writer for Glenn Greenwald explains it better than I ever could, but I feel a little better for getting some of what I feel off my chest anyway :)

One of the central facts that we, collectively, have not yet come to terms with is how extremist and radical were the people running the country for the last eight years. That condition, by itself, made it virtually inevitable that the resulting damage would be severe and fundamental, even irreversible in some sense. It's just not possible to have a rotting, bloated, deeply corrupt and completely insular political ruling class -- operating behind impenetrable walls of secrecy -- and avoid the devastation that is now becoming so manifest. It's just a matter of basic cause and effect.


The essence of this document was to declare that George Bush had the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. It was nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens. And it wasn't only a decree that existed in theory; this secret proclamation that the Fourth Amendment was inapplicable to what the document calls "domestic military operations" was, among other things, the basis on which Bush ordered the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military, to turn inwards and begin spying -- in secret and with no oversight -- on the electronic communications (telephone calls and emails) of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.


More amazingly still, there is almost certainly a whole slew of other activities that remain concealed, and very well may remain undisclosed for years, as a result of the creepy Orwellian slogans embraced in unison by our political class -- look towards the future, not the past!; only "liberal score-settlers" want an investigation of any of this. That mentality is being aided by a new administration that seems bizarrely desperate to keep concealed the secrets of the old one. As but one example, we know that the Bush administration was engaged in certain surveillance activities aimed at U.S. citizens that were so patently illegal and wrong that even the right-wing fanatics in Bush's own Justice Department (such as John Aschroft) threatened to resign immediately if they didn't cease, yet we still, to this day, don't know what those domestic surveillance activities were.

The most vital point is that all of the documents released yesterday by the Obama DOJ comprise nothing less than a regime of secret laws under which we were governed. Nothing was redacted when those documents yesterday were released because they don't contain any national security secrets. They're nothing more than legal decrees, written by lawyers. They're just laws that were implemented with no acts of Congress, unilaterally by the Executive branch. Yet even the very laws that governed us were kept secret for eight years.

This is factually true, with no hyperbole: Over the last eight years, we had a system in place where we pretended that our "laws" were the things enacted out in the open by our Congress and that were set forth by the Constitution. The reality, though, was that our Government secretly vested itself with the power to ignore those public laws, to declare them invalid, and instead, create a whole regimen of secret laws that vested tyrannical, monarchical power in the President. Nobody knew what those secret laws were because even Congress, despite a few lame and meek requests, was denied access to them. What kind of country lives under secret laws?


And yet even with all of that, our political elites -- the same people who enabled all of this and cheered it on -- are doing everything possible to ensure that none of it gets examined and that there's no accountability for any of it, even if (or rather: especially if) it involves extreme acts of criminality at the highest levels of government. In fact, the only reason we know about most of it -- such as the CIA's destruction of 92 interrogations videos, at the direction of the White House, despite the direct relevance of that evidence to numerous pending investigations (that's called "obstruction of justice," a felony) -- is because groups like the ACLU (with whom I consult), EFF, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others have been so tenacious about trying to compel its disclosure and combat it. If our political class had its way, even the bits and pieces we've now seen would continue to be hidden in the dark.

Click here to read Greenwald's entire piece.

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