The Rule of Law? Not So Much.

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You may have seen today’s headlines about the FBI’s illegal use of National Security Letters to obtain private information on American citizens. Those reports don’t mention that issue’s conection with another one, one that I’ve been ringing the bell about around here for a long time: presidential signing statements and, more broadly, the expansion of executive power.

Glenn Greenwald has a brilliant post about both issues and the connection between them, here.

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4 Responses to “The Rule of Law? Not So Much.”

  1. Unicorn Says:

    I read the Greenwald piece. It is neither new nor surprising, but still disturbing. This administration has me as frightened as Nixon’s did.

    Two feelings – anger and powerlessness. How do you deal with someone in the position of President who rationaizes that the law of the land does not apply to him?

    When will our nation wake up to the fact that this kind of impunity is a greater threat to our national (and personal)security than terrorists?

  2. Michael Lasley Says:

    How do you “unintentionally underreport” things? Just curious. I mean, I can understand a little bit of underreporting. But on this scale? Is Gonzales really this naive? Or is our FBI really that incoppetent? Or some combination?

    And why would the Bush administration object to such reviews? I know with JU and Unicorn, I’m preaching to the choir, but don’t we have some conservative voices here? I’m actually — and honestly — interested in the philosophy governing Bush’s objections. To lots of things — but this particularly.

  3. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I guess the conservatives have opted to let this one pass. (No criticism implied. I don’t always respond to everything, either.) That being the case, I’ll take a crack at answering your question, Mikey.

    The Bush administration objects because it holds a theory of the constitutional power of the presidency that says the holder of that office has total, plenary authority over everything that happens in the executive branch. There is no role for the other branches (except Congress’s power to fund or not fund, and a couple other things like Senate approval of treaties, justices, etc.).

    Their theory says that if the president authorizes something — or authorizes somebody to authorize it — it is, by definition, legal. There is, therefore, no need for judicial review or close congressional oversight.

    In this case, I don’t think they so much object to these particular reviews as they want to not give in on the principle.

  4. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Howard Fineman has some interesting background on this issue as it relates to the current stink over the U.S. Attorneys. He sees the Bush admin’s contempt for the law as a product of the time Bush, Rove, Miers, and Gonzales spent together in Texas politics.

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