Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Fuhrer's Law": The Bush Memos and Treason

A provocative article deserves a
provocative image, dontchathink?

What a doozy today. In perhaps one of the most significant stories of our lifetime (their words and mine), new details have come to light about the memos written by John Yoo while serving as a legal advisor to President Bush and the Executive Branch. Alternet's Naomi Wolf puts it most simply (and alarmingly):

In early March, more shocking details emerged about George W. Bush legal counsel John Yoo's memos outlining the destruction of the republic.

The memos lay the legal groundwork for the president to send the military to wage war against U.S. citizens; take them from their homes to Navy brigs without trial and keep them forever; close down the First Amendment; and invade whatever country he chooses without regard to any treaty or objection by Congress.


The memos are a confession. The memos could not be clearer: This was the legal groundwork of an attempted coup. I expected massive front page headlines from the revelation that these memos exited. Almost nothing. I was shocked.

John Yoo (a man who, incidentally, is eligible for war crimes trial) was instrumental in helping to consolidate presidential power and rationalize some of the most extreme breaches of justice and U.S. law perpetrated by the Bush administration over the last eight years, among them the justification of torture and limitation of habeus corpus, presidential power to override the fourth amendment through domestic surveillance, and worse. Constitutional scholar Michael Ratner explains:

What Yoo says is that the president's authority as commander in chief in the so-called war on terror is not bound by any law passed by Congress, any treaty, or the protections of free speech, due process and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The First, Fourth and Fifth amendments -- gone.

What this actually means is that the president can order the military to operate in the U.S. and to operate without constitutional restrictions. They -- the military -- can pick you or me up in the U.S. for any reason and without any legal process. They would not have any restrictions on entering your house to search it, or to seize you. They can put you into a brig without any due process or going to court. (That's the Fourth and Fifth amendments.)

The military can disregard the Posse Comitatus law, which restricts the military from acting as police in the the United States. And the president can, in the name of wartime restrictions, limit free speech. There it is in black and white: we are looking at one-person rule without any checks and balances -- a lawless state. Law by fiat.

I won't dignify the allegations of treason made later, mainly because I don't have to - they stand completely by themselves. What was done here was treason, pure and simple - a lawless, irresponsible administration laying the groundwork for the systematic elimination of checks and balances in America. Though the Department of Justice later rejected Yoo's assertions that Congress had no check or balance against the president, history has shown that President Bush proceeded in these areas as if Yoo's memos were valid legal counsel. Ratner puts it best:

"This would be the president making war against the institutions of the United States."

Further Readin':

The memos and summaries on Wikipedia
Salon's Gary Kumiya on the torture memos
Mark Mazzetti, New York Times on interrogations

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