Thursday, March 30, 2006

GOP: Setting up for a fall?

Sen. Russ Feingold wrote an excellent piece yesterday regarding the GOP's efforts to protect the President. This excerpt is a very chilling reminder that the actions of the Republican party today may be bad for them, and the country, in the long run.
As many Republicans focus on defending the President, they are losing sight of what ceding these powers to the President now will mean for their own party down the road. Those expansive powers will rest with whoever sits in the Oval Office. Republicans who argue today that the President has the power to ignore a law passed by Congress are relinquishing authority not just to this Republican President, but to future presidents of any party. They are helping to render future members of their own party powerless to check an executive who claims expansive powers under the Constitution or a future Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution.

Indeed, imagine how different the rhetoric we are currently hearing from the GOP would be if the current occupant of the White House had a D following his name instead of an R. The GOP are just setting themselves up for a fall. It is sad that Sen. Feingold has to appeal to the GOP party's vanity to try to get them to stand up for the rule of law, but sometimes drastic measures are needed (such as censure).

There won't be a Republican in the White House forever. By not checking this president now, Congress is rendering itself powerless in the face of a future president whose claims of 'inherent authority' may go far beyond those of the current tenet at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Opening The Files: 3/27/06

That Other British Memo

Well a big story today was the new Downing St. Memo that seemed to suggest that President Bush was set on waging war in Iraq in the weeks before the invasion regardless of the findings of the UN inspectors. This story is old news to those in the blogosphere, since it was reported on by The Guardian almost two months ago. But now that the NY Times has picked up the story, it is finally making headlines on this side of the Atlantic.

Countdown discussed the memo, making mention of the first memo from Downing St. and highlighted President Bush's suggestion for a way of provoking war. Andrea Mitchell called the allegation 'provocative'.

Bob Parry also spoke of the provocation ploy, as well as the media's downplaying of the first memo, their relation to the Nuremburg precedent and the most expansive excuse for this war of aggression to date.

Tim Grieve thinks this is a reminder that the White House doesn't need. I think they would agree with you on this one, Tim.

Think Progress points out just how "consistent" Bush's public and private statements have been.

Georgia10 gives Bush a new title: Liar-in-Chief.

Update: The author who first revealed the existence of this new memo, Philippe Sands, was on Monday's Hardball to discuss the document with Chris Matthews. Brad Blog has the video.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Signing Statement Strikes Again!

Well the latest act of our King George in his mad dash for unlimited executive powers was to issue another one of his infamous 'signing statements'. And not surprisingly it was added to a law that was touted as being "a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people". I am of course talking about the USA Patriot Act.

Although the Act itself was re-authorized with much fanfare, the release of the signing statement was hardly a blip on the radar. The statement reaffirms Bush's right to ignore provisions of the law according to how he interprets his role as the 'unitary executive' (along with the need to protect national security thrown in for good measure). The provisions that Bush is declaring his right to ignore if he chooses are the ones regarding Congressional oversight. Bush doesn't think he has to keep Congress informed of how the FBI is using it's expanded police powers. The potential for covering up possible abuses clearly warrants concern.

But this really shouldn't come as a surprise given the fact that Bush has already expressed his views on how he sees himself with regards to the law (see FISA and the Anti-Torture amendment). This is just the latest demonstration of Bush's contempt for the role of Congress and the rule of law.

Update: To get an idea of how much Bush has come to rely on his signing statements check out John Dean's analysis here.

Update II: Glenn agrees that this signing statement is nothing new since the Bush administration has made it adamantly clear how it views its powers.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Opening the Files: 3/23/05

The Pressers of being Bush

President Bush has been busy guy lately. Not only did he take questions from an unscreened audience in Cleveland but he also held a press conference at the White House.

David Corn , John Nichols and JABBS point out Bush's false portrayal of Democrats on the NSA surveillance program.

Bob Parry highlighted (again) that Bush (again) is left unquestioned about his assertion that "Saddam denied the inspectors".

Just who does Bush think he is F'n kidding that he never linked Saddam and 9/11? Of course technically he can get away with statements like this because he has employed the subtle art of 'mirroring' so well.

Georgia10 is ashamed and she is not alone.

Desperately seeking Censure (to thwart that is)

Sticking with the theme of false portrayals, Hillzoy wonders about the RNC's logic regarding it's anti-censure ad. She even comes up with a few scenarios of her own based on that 'logic'.

Glenn Greenwald debunks a couple of myths being propagated about the resolution.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bush: Not while I'm still the Prez

At a press conference today, President Bush seemed to suggest that US troops would remain in Iraq until the end of his presidency.

From Think Progress:
REPORTER: Will there come a day, and I’m not asking you when — I’m not asking for a timetable — will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

BUSH: That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.

We can at least take comfort in the fact that, for now, Bush acknowledges there will be future presidencies. This could change between now and 2008, of course, when his supporters decide that the 22nd amendment is another one of those ‘outdated’ laws that this 'wartime president' doesn't have to adhere to.

Monday, March 20, 2006

"Legal authority"

Bush Philosophy: It's legal because my lawyer said it was.

President Bush had this to say last month about the warrantless eavesdropping program:
I said, is it legal? I'm asking this to the Attorney General of the United States, the Legal Counsel in the White House; NSA has got lawyers. I mean, a lot of lawyers looked at this, and they said, you bet, Mr. President, it's legal.

The crux of their argument has been that President Bush has inherent authority, derived from the Constitution, to authorize actions necessary to protect Americans (even if those actions are in contravention of established laws such as FISA). But there are so many things wrong with this argument, not the least of which is that it is basically saying Bush has the authority to break the law.

Another thing is that all of the people who Bush cited as saying 'you bet, Mr. President, it's legal' are answerable to him. We all know that Bush likes to surround himself with 'yes' men. Do we honestly think they will tell him 'no sir, you can't do that'? Even if one or two did, don't you think Bush would just find someone else to give him the answer he wants to hear?

The Bush administration has been using a lot of legalese to give their illegal actions an aire of legality. But as Geogria10 pointed out the other day, their arguments have a slightly after-the-fact quality to them.

This is how this administration operates. Bush relies on how his lawyers interpret his authority. They seem to think that if they get a few lawyers in the Justice Department to sign off that a particular program is legal, the administration can claim they have legal authority to do it. They have done this with regards to torture, indefinite detention, the NSA spying, and perhaps even warrantless physical searches.

All that Bush has done is pulled the Nixon defense out of mothballs and polished it up at bit. And now it comes complete with all new Super Lawyer action figure with action phrases like "You bet, Mr. President, it's legal".

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Warrantless Physical Searches?

MSNBC's Countdown discussed last night a press release from US News and World Report regarding an article to be posted sometime this evening. The article apparently reveals that shortly after the September 11th attacks, the same lawyers who argued that Bush had the authority to conduct warrantless eavesdropping also concluded he could authorize warrantless physical searches. Crooks & Liars has the video and links to a rough transcript of the segment.

I wonder what those who defended Bush's warrantless eavesdropping will have to say if this turns out to be true.

Update: Georgia10 has a good point that it does not matter whether or not warrantless searches have been conducted (though I have very little doubt that they have not). The fact that the Bush administration even considered it is, as she puts it, 'nothing short of breathtakingly shocking'. For me, this really comes as no surprise. If they can claim authority to bypass one law, why stop there? We already know that anti-war protestors have been monitored by both the FBI and the Pentagon. Would it really be surprising to find that those same individuals may have had their homes or businesses searched in so-called 'black bag' operations?

It is becoming increasingly clear that 9/11 did change everything. But sadly we are only just now learning the extent of those "changes".

Update II: Here is a link to the US News article in question.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006

Well it is finally here. The bill that would make legal the illegal. That's right ladies and gentlemen. The Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006 (aka the 'Let the Executive Branch do whatever the hell it wants' Act) was introduced yesterday. Up until now, there was only speculation as to what exactly would be in the bill. But now it is official. We have it writing. And let's just say it isn't good.

Here are Glenn, Georgia10, and A.L.'s opinions on this "bill".

Must watch video

This clip, from the TV show Boston Legal is a must watch for anyone who worries about the current state of our nation. If only we had someone in Congress who would stand up and speak with such conviction. Oh wait, we do.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Talking Points: Iran IED's Debunked?

Bush Philosophy: No one ever said that talking points had to be true or make sense.

From AFP:
WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush, stepping up a war of words with Iran, accused Tehran of contributing to ever-deadlier roadside bombs used against US-led forces and civilians in Iraq.

"Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devices in Iraq," the US president said on Monday. (Emphasis added)

I wanted to highlight the part about Shia militias for a good reason. Because obviously one of Bush's speechwriters dropped the ball here. Bush is claiming that the Iranian government has been providing Shia militias in Iraq with ever-deadlier IED's, which are then used against both coalition forces and civilians. But this doesn't make sense because the Shia militas are mostly controlled by the Shiite's now in control of the government. Is Bush saying that the guys in charge of the new Iraqi government are also the ones blowing up our troops and their own citizens?

And even if Bush had said Sunni insurgents (or even terrorists), the statement would still not make sense. Iran wants the Shiite's of Iraq in control there. Are we really to believe that the leaders of Iran are willing to jeopardize their burgeoning relationship with the newly US-installed Shia in Iraq? I doubt it. I also doubt they would supply the terrorists, because for the most part they have been targeting Shiites in order to foment sectarian violence. Iran is a mostly Shia country and to say that they are having a hand in killing their fellow Shiite brethren is silly.

Of course, all this talk about IED's courtesy of the Iranian government might not be a 'slam dunk' talking point.

From Reuters:
WASHINGTON - The top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday the United States does not have proof that Iran's government is responsible for Iranians smuggling weapons and military personnel into Iraq.

President George W. Bush said on Monday components from Iran were being used in powerful roadside bombs used in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel had been inside Iraq.

Asked whether the United States has proof that Iran's government was behind these developments, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing, "I do not, sir."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It's all about the terror(ists)

Sen. Biden was on Meet the Press this past Sunday. I'd like to highlight this statement that Biden made (h/t Desi)
Biden: We’re not going to just be able to walk away. It will be a disaster. I—when I got back from Iraq a little while ago, I went down to see the president, and I sat with the president, and he kept talking about terrorists. And I said, “Mr. President, if every single al-Qaeda personality, every single al-Qaeda operative or anyone like him tomorrow were blown away, you still have a war, Mr. President. This is well beyond terrorists.” (Emphasis added)

It was good that Biden pointed out Bush's apparent obsession with terrorism. At every opportunity, Bush and others in his administration have sought to give the impression that the Iraqi insurgency is made up only of terrorists. They have continued to do this despite the Pentagon's admission that only a small percentage of the insurgency are foreign fighters. But this was done purposely of course. Because while no one can argue that we must address the threat that terrorism poses; many do not want to see our troops caught in the crossfire of a civil war (which some say is already happening). In order to maintain support for the war effort, Bush has had to make grand generalizations about who the enemy is (and indeed that is how we came to be there in the first place). By conflating any legitimate resistance as acts of terrorism, it gives the administration the excuse it needs to keep 'staying the course'.

Update: See just how focused Bush is (h/t Heretik).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Russ Feingold: Censure

I just learned that Sen. Russ Feingold plans to introduce a resolution to censure President Bush tomorrow.

From Think Progress:
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) announced that he will introduce a resolution tomorrow to censure President Bush for authorizing an illegal warrantless domestic surveillance program. Feingold said President Bush’s actions were “right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Undoubtedly, this will never make it to the floor for a vote (Sen. Frist all but assures that it won't). But what it does is send a message, and not the one that Sen. Frist claims. It also helps keep the NSA spying scandal in the news, which at this point is a good thing because too many of the major news agencies are already treating President Bush's law breaking as a fait accompli.

More on this from Glenn, Georiga10, and ReddHedd.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Roberts USA Today Op-ed

Sen. Pat Roberts had this to say in an op-ed in USA Today:
It's the constitutional duty of the executive branch to make the tough decisions necessary to win wars. That's not the case for the legislative branch, which has the luxury of criticizing actions with the benefit of hindsight. (Emphasis added)

Someone needs to remind the good Senator that the President does not have exclusive authority when it comes to making decisions during times of war. We elect members of Congress to represent us, and because that is so, they have a say in how this nation conducts itself, especially with regard to waging war. We place our trust in them, trust that they will weigh all of the evidence and come to an informed decision that is best for the country. Because ultimately those decisions will affect all of us.

If Roberts is suggesting that the legislature does not have a say in making those 'tough decisions', he is basically saying that what we the people want does not matter. Tell me how that does not make us a defacto monarchy?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Opening The Files: 3/10/06

Let's Make A Deal

Here are a few commentaries on the proposed legislation regarding President Bush's warrantless surveillance program.

Anonymous Liberal: A.L.'s observations on the surveillance deal

Robert Parry: Oversight by Capitulation

Slate Magazine: Orwell would be proud

Media Matters: WSJ editorial claimed GOP senators "mugg[ed]" White House in wiretapping agreement

Think Progress: If Sen. Pat Roberts made speed limit signs


War on the Press?

MSNBC's Countdown weighed in on the issue of the vigorous efforts by the Bush administration to clamp down on the leaking of classified information to the media (or at least that which hasn't been sanctioned to be leaked for political purposes). See the Countdown segment here (h/t Brad Blog). Glenn has more on the issue here.

Funny that Keith mentioned the Simpsons during the segment since it seems many Americans know more about a cartoon then they do about the Bill of Rights (D'oh!). Maybe that is why more people aren't outraged by these assaults on our freedoms by the Bush administration. They just aren't aware of what is at stake.

America needs to wake up and see what is happening in this country. Otherwise we run the risk of having our freedoms 'revised'.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Not surprised

Well I just learned the outcome of today's vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee. I am not surprised. I realized a long time ago that as long as Republicans control the Congress they will never choose to investigate a Republican president, and Bush in particular. It would seem there is nothing President Bush can do that Republicans will not cover up for him.

And sadly, I had this nagging feeling that even if a vote for investigations was cast, it would simply turn into another Phase II debacle. There is still a chance some action may be taken (perhaps in the form of withholding funds for the program) or legal action. I heard that Gonzales may be called before the Judiciary Committee to testify again. One wonders if he will actually be sworn in this time so that he can't issue another 'clarification' letter.

Glenn has a nice followup on the outcome of the vote here.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Frist threatens 'restructure'.

In the latest, and probably the most brazen, attempt to thwart any meaningful investigation into President Bush's domestic spying program, Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist has threatened to 'restructure' the Senate Intelligence Committee. Essentially Frist is calling for the committee to be run like every other Senate committee, where the majority controls the proceedings and agenda. Frist seems to think this action might be necessary in order to allow the committee to get on with more important matters. I guess determining whether or not our President broke the law is not worthy of Sen. Frist's time.

Glenn has the full story. And as I observed in the comments section of Glenn's post, I wonder how Sen. Frist would feel if, in the near future, President Bush were to decide that some 'restructuring' were required in the form of the disbandment of Congress.

Update: ReddHedd over at Firedoglake points out that Frist is not only a cheater but a hypocrite as well.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Dubai: A bait and switch?

From What ever happened to the NSA spying furor?
WASHINGTON - When the New York Times revealed late last year that the Bush administration was conducting a surveillance program to listen in on American citizens’ conversations with suspected al Qaida operatives, it sparked a furor....

But now, two months later, another furor — over a Dubai-based firm’s acquiring of leases on terminal facilities at several U.S. ports — has blown the NSA story right off the front pages.

Is it possible that the backlash over the Dubai port deal was allowed to grow (in the form of Bush backing the deal for example) as a means for the administration to draw attention away from the NSA spying scandal? As we all know, this administration has perfected the art of misdirection, what with their conveniently timed terror alerts or foiled plot announcements.

Something else to consider is that while the outrage over the Dubai deal is pretty strong (and coming from both sides of the aisle), similar outrage over the fact that President Bush apparently broke the law is decidedly more muted. About the time that the Dubai deal came to light, it was looking as though Congress was caving in to pressure from the White House (regardless of Sen. Roberts claims to the contrary). But now that the Dubai Debacle is big news, the Congress can look like it is standing up to Bush while they are secretly cutting a deal to let him slide on his more unlawful behavior.

Could this have been the work of Bush's Brain all along?

Gitmo exempted from McCain torture ban

Well I was right about one reason the Bush administration endorsed the McCain anti-torture amendment.

From the Washington Post:
Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."

Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions....

In court filings, the Justice Department lawyers argued that language in the law written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) gives Guantanamo Bay detainees access to the courts only to appeal their enemy combatant status determinations and convictions by military commissions. (Emphasis added)

"Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts."

So essentially the anti-torture ban is unenforceable in the one place where it appears it is needed the most.

For an interesting read on just who we appear to be holding at Guantanamo Bay, I recommend an editorial by Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate Magazine: Invisible Men.