Well Said

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 The following is a letter posted for feedback on a public site.  Although I would’ve made some different choices of language here and there, I thought it laid out our current predicament extremely well and in plain, easy-to-understand English.  It is addressed to the Chair and the Ranking Minority Member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The highlighting is mine, but the letter is otherwise reproduced without editing or comment.

Dear Senator Leahy and Senator Specter,

Thank you for your dedication and work as United States Senators. For years I have been concerned about the behavior of the current Bush administration and the Justice Dept. Your recent interviews with the Attorney General have only heightened my fears.

Before this administration, there was a commonly held belief that the United States believed in and followed the rule of law. These laws are written down and available for the public to see. There might be disagreements, but they could be settled publicly in the appropriate Court, even going as a high as the Supreme Court, to decide if something was legal or illegal, as defined by the written public laws. Since President Bush has taken office there seems to be not two, legal or illegal, positions but a third – not legal by our written public laws, but due to this administration saying it is “legal” in the defense of our country because we are at war with the terrorists. I will call this new third status Bushlegal or Bushlaw. It appears the President asks partisan political apointees, that owe their job to him, to give him “Bushlegal” justification to operate outside of the written public laws and declare something Bushlegal.

The President, Vice President, Mr. Rove, Attorney General and their supporting staff have claimed that the President have the right and even obligation to protect Americans through these new Executive powers used as a legal backing for Bushlegal. This President has signed more signing statements than any other President. President Bush has stated that he will sign written public laws as passed by Congress into law but he reserves the right as the Commander in Chief to not follow those laws as he deems necessary to protect us or if he feels those public written laws limit his Executive powers.

In public statements the White House acknowledges that they have done many things outside of the written public law, such as years of wiretaps without a Judge’s approval or a written warrant, suspended due process for individuals or groups the President considers a threat to American security, used highly aggressive physical interrogation techniques that would be considered torture under the public written laws, mined data of personal communications by American citizens who have not broken any laws and are not suspect with a Judge’s warrant of breaking any laws, run secret prisons where prisoners are not available to the Red Cross or have any legal rights, and captured (against their will and with no charges filed publicly) citizens and flown them to countries known for illegal interrogation commonly referred to as torture in America. Until Bushlegal any these actions might have been grounds for prosecution or impeachment.

The White House has even built a prison, Gauntanomo Bay, where the President insists that the public written American laws do not apply but only Bushlaw applies. The citizens have been told that Bushlegal definitions cannot be made public, as this will benefit the “terrorists in our fight in War on Terrorism”.

The biggest concern is that the American public does not know how many Bushlaws there are, if they are written down or do the President, Vice President, Mr. Rove, the Attorney General and their staffs just make it up as they go along? Is my writing this letter breaking a Bushlaw that I don’t know about? I am not being satirical or facetious, I am being deadly serious. This basic American concept of following the written public rule of law was always considered a firewall separated us from societies run by dictators.

The mainstream media has reported many suspects who have died during this Administration’s “aggressive interrogations”. In the past, under written public law, these deaths would trigger an investigation for torture and murder. The accused as well as the victim’s families would have their rights protected by due process of written public laws. Under Bushlaw these deaths are not a crime, as these aggressive interrogations were done under Bushlegal law and “for the protection of the public”. To even ask about the legality of these interrogations is considered an affront to the Executive Power. The President and this administration refuse to answer even basic specific questions, such as, is waterboarding considered torture and is it illegal under Bushlaw? They claim that having public written laws now puts Americans in danger!

Besides incidents where this administration is caught acting outside the public written laws and then claims their actions are Bushlegal, the citizens don’t even know what is being done to “protect us”. This is an extremely slippery slope and we are already a good way down in our slide away from traditional American legal values.

One would assume the Attorney General knows that there is going to be a public accounting of the Bushlaws and Bushlegal actions after President Bush has left office. Mr. Bush will no longer have the Presidential power to pardon, to declare Executive Privilege and National Security status. I am hopeful that the next administration will feel an obligation to publicly investigate the extent of Bushlaws and actions taken by this administration that were illegal under our current written public laws.

Can you ask the Attorney General to list all of the times and programs that he knows first hand that this administration is acting outside of our written public laws with the Bushlegal or Bushlaw rational? Mr. Gonzales can hide under the President’s protective support for now but the clock is ticking before we go back to public written law enforcement. Give Mr. Gonzales the opportunity to serve Justice or be explicitly part of the administration that is regularly acting outside of our public written laws.

Thank you for your consideration,

Alex Bornstein

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3 Responses to “Well Said”

  1. alsturgeon Says:

    Well, the only comment that comes to mind for me is your title: Well Said.

  2. unicorntx Says:

    I recall that during the Nixon Administration I had similar feelings. The abuse of power and the violation of individaul rights left me questioning my faith in America and those values we cherished.

    When the impeachment process was begun, which resulted in the end of the Nixon presidency, my faith in our system was restored.

    Now, once again, my confidence in those who lead our nation (not only the administration, but those in a position to call this administration to task) is badly shaken.

    Will Mr. Bornstein’s letter make any impression on those who have the means to address this adminstration’s crimes against our Constitution and our cherished values of justice and human decency?

    I’m not confident it will. Next November is a long way off – and there’s far too much time for this administration to continue it’s erosion of our freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism.

  3. urbino Says:

    I frankly doubt it will make much impression in Washington, either. There were some things — some people — in place in Washington during the Nixon era that are just lacking today.

    For one, a strong opposition-party caucus in Congress. Even in time of a protracted shooting war. Even in time of a looming, existential threat to the country. Today’s Dems just don’t have the gumption or the principles to stand up to the current president.

    For another, a same-party caucus in Congress that believes in constitutional limits on presidential authority, even in a time of war. Today’s GOP simply doesn’t believe (and “believe” is the right word) that the Constitution sets limits on the president’s power to spy on, arrest, detain, question, torture, and indefinitely imprison incommunicado American citizens as well as foreign nationals.

    (Yes, I realize how moonbat crazy I sound saying that. But, honestly, what other conclusion can one come to — on the evidence — after these past 6.5 years? President Bush or his representatives have claimed every single one of those powers, and the congressional GOP has rhetorically and legislatively supported each and every one.)

    Another thing missing is a president with a sense of shame. Nixon, for all his problems, at least had enough sense of shame to fire members of his administration who got exposed behaving outside the law. (And he didn’t wait for criminal trials to prove the charges.) He also had enough sense of shame to resign when he was caught doing the same.

    President Bush utterly lacks that. He seems to think that not being bodily forced from office is the same thing as being perfectly legitimate and blameless. Look at his comments just yesterday about his attorney general. Look at his response to Scooter Libby’s conviction and to the Plame leak in general.

    The man has no shame. He believes in raw power and his own infallibility, and that’s all. Under his ethics, if he has the might to escape getting punished for something, that thing is Right.

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