Mood: on fire
Now Playing: PERVERTS!
Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS
Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Homeland Security and TSA and nakid pictures and Civil Rights violations
Now Playing: Tell DHS to stop using BODY SCANNERS
Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS
My comment is the first 2 paragraphs the rest is from the ACLU's website that has the letter all ready written, you dont have to add anything. I did.
Let me preface this letter with "I'm ashamed of how far off the beaten path of reality we have gone" regarding all these airport TSA search procedures and now the body scanners. This is all getting slightly twisted, perverse, and un necessary and uncalled for. As I mentioned "I'm ashamed". There is no "good enough reason" to have the Government acting like this, in "total" disregard for "freedom, privacy, and liberty".
What have we become, and why are 'you allowing it' to go this far into degrading our civil rights, intergrety and honor? Have we as a country lost all respect for our constitution and for our citizens own unalienable Rights, Dignity and Privacy?
You have said that "Advanced Imaging Technology" scanners are "safe, efficient, and protect passenger privacy." But, the truth is that the GAO and experts have raised serious questions about the effectiveness of these machines and whether they could possibly justify the invasion of privacy involved.
Authorities at DHS say you can opt out of the naked scan. But doing so will subject you to new and highly invasive manual searches of your body, including your intimate parts by TSA officers.
In addition, DHS has claimed the right to search and seize the laptops and other electronic devices of international travelers. Never before have customs officers been able to routinely pour through a lifetime's worth of letters, photographs, purchase records and other data without any basis for suspicion.
Below is the email I received from the ACLU on this subject:
Unfortunately, you can also expect another hassle at the airport this year. 70 airports around the country are now using controversial body scanners—also known as "naked scanners." These machines use low-dose radiation to produce strikingly graphic images of passengers' bodies, essentially taking a naked picture as passengers pass through security checkpoints.
Yes, authorities at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) say you can opt out of the naked scan. But doing so will subject you to new and highly invasive manual searches of your body, including your breasts, buttocks and inner thighs.
All of us have a right to travel without such crude invasions of our privacy. Tell DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to put in place security measures that respect passengers' privacy rights. http://tiny.cc/s6p5g
There's already an outcry building over all of these new searches. In fact, travelers and the ACLU have pushed back before against invasive screening, and the TSA quietly retreated back to a lighter touch. But if we want to stop these invasive practices, we've got to put our voices together.
Tell DHS to rein in these invasive, out-of-control searches and to implement security measures that ensure passenger privacy. http://tiny.cc/s6p5g
The ACLU has prepared a useful guide to help you navigate your options at the airport. It details ways to protect your privacy during air travel. It also describes how to file official complaints about any TSA trouble you encounter. View it here.
If you think your rights have been violated while you're traveling, please let us know about it. Just fill out this form online to share your story.
You shouldn't have to check your rights when you check your luggage. With the holiday travel season fast approaching, we need to make sure that security measures are in place that actually make us more secure without compromising passenger privacy.
Please write Secretary Napolitano today.
Thanks for speaking out, ACLU
Standing Up to the TSA - Protest the TSA in Portland on November 24 2010
Now Playing: PROTESTING THE TSA - Homeland Security Airport Civil Rights Infringments 11.24.10
PROTEST TSA and HOMELAND (In)SECURITY
Nov. 24, Noon - 1:30pm
We need sign holders to join us in our protest of the unconstitutional TSA/Homeland Security policy? These shake downs at airports are not about "security". It is about CONTROL! If it is not stopped, it will lead to more humiliation in more areas of our communities.... malls, theaters, restaurants, offices, banks, schools, etc. We must stop this infringement of our 4th Amendment rights to be secure in our persons and effects, against unreasonable searches. Please join us in this 1-1/2 hour protest and stand up for freedom!
Mark your calendar!
Date: November 24
Time: Noon to 1:30pm (thereabouts)
Where: At Lombard St. and Airport Way overpass (near PDX airport)
Bring: Very large signs condemning the humiliating pat-downs and carcinogenic and porn x-rays; also condemning TSA, Homeland Security Agency and Patriot Act that started all this infringement of our rights.
Please RSVP, so that we can have a head count.
Also, contact your U.S. Reps and demand and to TSA, close up Homeland Security and abolish the Patriot Act. See note below.
"Why do we have to go through all of this?"
Sunday, 14 November 2010
F* Corporate Media - Do I have to Explain This? - Watch The Video ((( i )))
Mood: hug me
Now Playing: F* Corporate Media
Fuck The Corporate Media
Monday, 8 November 2010
Bush & Cheney used Torture and Both Admit It - sound funny? its not!
Now Playing: Bush Admits He Authorized the Use of Torture, But No One Cares
Published on Saturday, November 6, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
No Appetite for Prosecution: In Memoir, Bush Admits He Authorized the Use of Torture, But No One Cares
With just days to go before George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, hits bookstores (on November 9), and with reports on the book's contents doing the rounds after review copies were made available to the New York Times and Reuters, it will be interesting to see how many media outlets allow the former President the opportunity to try to salvage his reputation, how many are distracted by his spat with Kanye West or his claim that he thought about replacing Dick Cheney as Vice President in 2004, and how many decide that, on balance, it would be more honest to remind readers and viewers of the former President's many crimes - including the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the authorization of the use of torture on "high-value detainees" seized in the "War on Terror."
As I fall firmly into the latter camp, this article focuses on what little has so far emerged regarding the President's views on Guantánamo, and, in particular, on his confession that he authorized the waterboarding of "high-value detainee" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which is rather more important than trading blows with a rapper about whether or not his response to the Katrina disaster was racist, as it is a crime under domestic and international law.
On Guantánamo, the only comments in the book that have so far emerged are insultingly flippant, which is disgraceful from the man who shredded the Geneva Conventions and authorized an unprecedented program of arbitrary detention, coercive interrogation and torture. In addition, Bush's baleful legacy lives on in the cases of the 174 men still held, in the recent show trial of Omar Khadr, and in the complacency regarding the basis for detaining prisoners of the "War on Terror" - the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress the week after the 9/11 attacks - on which Barack Obama continues to rely, despite its formidable shortcomings.
As Michiko Kakutani explained in a review of the book for the New York Times:
On torture, however, Bush remains as casual about authorizing waterboarding (a form of controlled drowning used on at least three "high-value detainees" held in secret CIA prisons), as he did in June this year, when he told the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, "Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I'd do it again to save lives."
In his book, he writes that his response, when asked if he would approve the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was, "Damn right!" He added, "Had I not authorized waterboarding on senior al-Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked."
On Thursday, Reuters revealed more about the passages in the book in which Bush discusses waterboarding. This largely revisits the scenario as he described it in a press conference in September 2006, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (the three men waterboarded by the CIA), plus 11 other "high-value detainees," were transferred to Guantánamo from the secret CIA prisons whose existence, until that moment, had been strenuously denied by the administration.
On that occasion, he spoke at length about Abu Zubaydah, the supposed "high-value detainee" for whom the torture program was specifically developed, who, according to the "torture memos" released last year (written by lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 and 2005) was waterboarded 83 times.
Revisiting his claims that, "When Abu Zubaydah stopped answering questions from the FBI, CIA Director George Tenet told Bush he thought the detainee had more information to offer" (as Reuters described it), Bush explains that "CIA and Justice Department lawyers conducted a careful legal review and came up with an ‘enhanced interrogation program,' which he said complied with the US Constitution and all applicable laws, including those that ban torture."
"No doubt the procedure was tough, but medical experts assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm," Bush writes, adding that the methods were "highly effective," and that Abu Zubaydah "revealed large amounts of information about al-Qaeda's structure as well as the location of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who he called the logistical planner of September 11 attacks" - an analysis that is unconvincing, as FBI interrogator Ali Soufan explained in an op-ed for the New York Times in April 2009. Soufan wrote:
Bizarrely, Bush also attempts to explain how Abu Zubaydah began cooperating, in a troubling passage in which he seems to be trying to make out that waterboarding was some sort of specific test for Muslims. He writes, "His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate." He adds that Abu Zubaydah then explained, "You must do this for all the brothers."
Writing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, according to the OLC memos, Bush describes him as "difficult to break," as Reuters put it, "but when he did, he gave us a lot." As Reuters explained, "He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax and ‘directed us to three people involved in the al-Qaeda biological weapons program,' among other breakthroughs."
Again, this is a claim that is not backed up with any evidence. As David Rose explained in an article for Vanity Fair in December 2008, "according to a former senior CIA official, who read all the interrogation reports on KSM, ‘90 percent of it was total f*cking bullsh*t.' A former Pentagon analyst adds: ‘KSM produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.'"
In conclusion, however, Bush claims that "the CIA interrogation program saved lives," as Reuters described it, and states, "Had we captured more al-Qaeda operatives with significant intelligence value, I would have used the program for them as well."
Why waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime
The problem with Bush's off-hand acknowledgment that he authorized the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - and Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri - is that waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime.
As Isabel Macdonald of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) explained in 2008 in an excellent overview of US reporting on waterboarding, "During the insurrection against the US occupation of the Philippines, the Washington Post described how the US military tortured suspected members of the Filipino resistance using "the form of torture known as the water cure." That was in September 1902, but after the Second World War, when US military tribunals tried Japanese military officials for war crimes for torturing prisoners of war with techniques including waterboarding, the New York Times described the procedure as "forced drownings," and it was referred to by the Washington Post as "water torture."
Similarly, in March 1968:
Moreover, when it comes to torture in more general terms, the US anti-torture statute (Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C of the US Code, introduced in 1994) describes torture as "an act ... specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering ... upon another person within his custody or physical control," and, as I explained in an article in July this year about Jay S. Bybee, the former OLC head (and now a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) who signed his name to the most notorious of the "torture memos," written by John Yoo in the summer of 2002:
These facts are generally ignored by mainstream media outlets, where those in charge have, since 2004, when waterboarding under the Bush administration was first introduced to the US public, coyly - and deceptively - chosen to refer to it as "a form of simulated drowning condemned by human rights activists as torture" (as Reuters did on Thursday), thereby helping to foster the culture of impunity which has allowed Bush to make this statement so publicly, and which, in February, allowed Dick Cheney to tell Jonathan Karl, on ABC News' "This Week," "I was a big supporter of waterboarding."
Why the Obama administration bears responsibility for Bush's impunity
In addition, the Obama administration is also responsible. Neither President Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder has chosen to hold Bush administration officials and lawyers - up to and including the former President - accountable for their crimes, even though, as I explained in an article in March 2009:
Instead, after a promising start on torture, which involved the President upholding the absolute ban on torture in an executive order issued on his second day in office, and the release of the OLC "torture memos" last April, in response to a court order, the Obama administration has retreated to a place where every attempt to seek accountability for the Bush administration's torturers has been resolutely blocked.
In January this year, it was revealed that Holder had appointed - or had allowed - the veteran Justice Department fixer David Margolis to override the conclusions of a four-year internal investigation into the behavior of John Yoo and Jay Bybee, in which the author's conclusions - that both men had been willfully guilty of "professional misconduct" - were watered down so that they were merely reprimanded for exercising "poor judgment."
In addition, the administration's stock response to attempts to investigate torture claims in court - as, for example, in the cases of five men subjected to "extraordinary rendition" and torture, who sought to sue Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary that acted as the CIA's torture travel agent - has been to slam all the doors shut mercilessly, inappropriately invoking the little-known "state secrets" privilege to prevent anyone with a valid complaint from even getting anywhere near a court.
This is unlikely to change in the near future, of course, leaving George W. Bush able to boast openly about his crimes, apparently secure in the knowledge that he is untouchable, although as David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University, and a long-standing critic of the Bush administration's interrogation and detention policies, told the Washington Post on Thursday, "The fact that he did admit it suggests he believes he is politically immune from being held accountable ... But politics can change."
At present, it is difficult to see how, but those compiling evidence will have taken note that, in the very public forum of an internationally available memoir, George W. Bush has failed to rehabilitate his legacy and has, instead, openly confessed to war crimes.
Note: For a perceptive analysis of George W. Bush's thoughts about his responsibility for the Iraq fiasco, see this post by Amy Davidson of the New Yorker.
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Suicides in the Military rate is rising - What are we doing about it
Mood: crushed out
Now Playing: Suicides in the Military and PTSD cries that only get ignored
Hi Z3 Readers,
This serious article was in my email box this morning from the great folks at VFP chapter 72.
My cousin Ted Westhusing comitted suicide in Iraq in 2005.
Subject: Soldiers fed up with mistreatment at Ft. Lewis
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
cough cough Vote results for House district 3 in Oregon
Now Playing: earl blumenauer (cough) wins House dist. 3
Thursday, 28 October 2010
Socialism? The Rich Are Winning the US Class War: Facts Show Rich Getting Richer, Everyone Else Poorer
Now Playing: Bill Quigley: author - Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at Loyola University New Orle
Published on Monday,
October 25, 2010
Socialism? The Rich Are Winning the US Class War: Facts Show Rich Getting Richer, Everyone Else Poorer
The rich and their paid false prophets are doing a bang up job deceiving the poor and middle class. They have convinced many that an evil socialism is alive in the land and it is taking their fair share. But the deception cannot last – facts say otherwise.
Yes, there is a class war – the war of the rich on the poor and the middle class – and the rich are winning. That war has been going on for years. Look at the facts – facts the rich and their false paid prophets do not want people to know.
Let Glen Beck go on about socialists descending on Washington. Allow Rush Limbaugh to rail about “class warfare for a leftist agenda that will destroy our society.” They are well compensated false prophets for the rich.
The truth is that for the several decades the rich in the US have been getting richer and the poor and middle class have been getting poorer. Look at the facts then make up your own mind.
Poor Getting Poorer: Facts
The official US poverty numbers show we now have the highest number of poor people in 51 years. The official US poverty rate is 14.3 percent or 43.6 million people in poverty. One in five children in the US is poor; one in ten senior citizens is poor. Source: US Census Bureau.
One of every six workers, 26.8 million people, is unemployed or underemployed. This “real” unemployment rate is over 17%. There are 14.8 million people designated as “officially” unemployed by the government, a rate of 9.6 percent. Unemployment is worse for African American workers of whom 16.1 percent are unemployed. Another 9.5 million people who are working only part-time while they are seeking full-time work but have had their hours cut back or are so far only able to find work part-time are not counted in the official unemployment numbers. Also, an additional 2.5 million are reported unemployed but not counted because they are classified as discouraged workers in part because they have been out of work for more than 12 months. Source: US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics October 2010 report.
The median household income for whites in the US is $51,861; for Asians it is $65,469; for African Americans it is $32,584; for Latinos it is $38,039. Source: US Census Bureau.
Fifty million people in the US lack health insurance. Source: US Census Bureau.
Women in the US have a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions than women in 40 other countries. African American US women are nearly 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Source: Amnesty International Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.
About 3.5 million people, about one-third of which are children, are homeless at some point in the year in the US. Source: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
Outside Atlanta, 33,000 people showed up to seek applications for low cost subsidized housing in August 2010. When Detroit offered emergency utility and housing assistance to help people facing evictions, more than 50,000 people showed up for the 3,000 vouchers. Source: News reports.
There are 49 million people in the US who live in households which eat only because they receive food stamps, visit food pantries or soup kitchens for help. Sixteen million are so poor they have skipped meals or foregone food at some point in the last year. This is the highest level since statistics have been kept. Source: US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
Middle Class Going Backward: Facts
One or two generations ago it was possible for a middle class family to live on one income. Now it takes two incomes to try to enjoy the same quality of life. Wages have not kept up with inflation; adjusted for inflation they have lost ground over the past ten years. The cost of housing, education and health care have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries. In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52% of all income. In 1998, it was down to 47%. The share going to the poor has also fallen, with the top 20% seeing their share rise. Mark Trumball, “Obama’s challenge: reversing a decade of middle-class decline,” Christian Science Monitor, January 25, 2010. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0125/Obama-s-challenge-reversing-a-decade-of-middle-class-decline
A record 2.8 million homes received a foreclosure notice in 2009, higher than both 2008 and 2007. In 2010, the rate is expected to be rise to 3 million homes. Sources: Reuters and RealtyTrac.
Eleven million homeowners (about one in four homeowners) in the US are “under water” or owe more on their mortgages than their house is worth. Source: “Home truths,” The Economist, October 23, 2010.
For the first time since the 1940s, the real incomes of middle-class families are lower at the end of the business cycle of the 2000s than they were at the beginning. Despite the fact that the American workforce is working harder and smarter than ever, they are sharing less and less in the benefits they are creating. This is true for white families but even truer for African American families whose gains in the 1990s have mostly been eliminated since then. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America. http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/swa08_00_execsum.pdf
Rich Getting Richer: Facts
The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8% in the last year to $1.37 trillion. Source: Forbes 400: The super-rich get richer, September 22, 2010, Money.com
The top Hedge Fund Manager of 2009, David Tepper, “earned” $4 billion last year. The rest of the top ten earned: $3.3 billion, $2.5 billion, $2.3 billion, $1.4 billion, $1.3 billion (tie for 6th and 7th place), $900 million (tie for 8th and 9th place), and in last place out of the top ten, $825 million. Source: Business Insider. “Meet the top 10 earning hedge fund managers of 2009.” http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-the-top-10-earning-hedge-fund-managers-of-2009-2010-4
Income disparity in the US is now as bad as it was right before the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s. From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1% more than doubled their share of the total US income, from 10% to 23%. The richest 1% have an average annual income of more than $1.3 million. For the last 25 years, over 90% of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10% earners – leaving 9% of all income to be shared by the bottom 90%. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America. http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/2008/01/19.pdf
In 1973, the average US CEO was paid $27 for every dollar paid to a typical worker; by 2007 that ratio had grown to $275 to $1. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America. http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/2008/03/SWA08_Wages_Figure.3AE.pdf
Since 1992, the average tax rate on the richest 400 taxpayers in the US dropped from 26.8% to 16.62%. Source: US Internal Revenue Service. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/07intop400.pdf
The US has the greatest inequality between rich and poor among all Western industrialized nations and it has been getting worse for 40 years. The World Factbook, published by the CIA, includes an international ranking of the inequality among families inside of each country, called the Gini Index. The US ranking of 45 in 2007 is the same as Argentina, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivorie. The highest inequality can be found in countries like Namibia, South Africa, Haiti and Guatemala. The US ranking of 45 compares poorly to Japan (38), India (36), New Zealand, UK (34), Greece (33), Spain (32), Canada (32), France (32), South Korea (31), Netherlands (30), Ireland (30), Australia (30), Germany (27), Norway (25), and Sweden (23). Source: CIA The World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html
Rich people live an average of about five years longer than poor people in the US. Naturally, gross inequality has consequences in terms of health, exposure to unhealthy working conditions, nutrition and lifestyle. In 1980, the most well off in the US had a life expectancy of 2.8 years over the least well-off. As the inequality gap widens, so does the life expectancy gap. In 1990, the gap was a little less than 4 years. In 2000, the least well-off could expect to live to age of 74.7 while the most well off had a life expectancy of 79.2 years. Source: Elise Gould, “Growing disparities in life expectancy,” Economic Policy Institute. http://www.epi.org/economic_snapshots/entry/webfeatures_snapshots_20080716/
These are extremely troubling facts for anyone concerned about economic fairness, equality of opportunity, and justice.
Thomas Jefferson once observed that the systematic restructuring of society to benefit the rich over the poor and middle class is a natural appetite of the rich. “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to…the general prey of the rich on the poor.” But Jefferson also knew that justice can only be delayed so long when he said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
The rich talk about the rise of socialism to divert attention from the fact that they are devouring the basics of the poor and everyone else. Many of those crying socialism the loudest are doing it to enrich or empower themselves. They are right about one thing – there is a class war going on in the US. The rich are winning their class war, and it is time for everyone else to fight back for economic justice.
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
JOHN ASHCROFTS IMMUNITY AND THE U.S. LEGAL SYSTEM DR. LAWRENCE DAVIDSON
Now Playing: The criminal - Ashcroft - and the US double standards
JOHN ASHCROFT’S IMMUNITY AND THE U.S. LEGAL SYSTEM – DR. LAWRENCE DAVIDSON26. Oct, 2010
by Dr. Lawrence Davidson
Court Rules Ashcroft Can Be Held Liable For U.S. Citizen’s Post 9/11 Detention
One of the cases the Supreme Court of the United States will take up in its 2011 session is Ashcroft vs. al-Kidd. John Ashcroft was the Attorney General under President George Bush Jr. In that capacity he appears to have knowingly violated the U.S. Constitution (as well as periodically forced his employees to listen to his horrendous singing voice). Abdullah al-Kidd is a Muslim American citizen who Ashcroft illegally ordered detained through the illicit use of a material witness warrant. Kidd was one of 70 detained in this manner. He was picked up at Dulles International Airport after the FBI lied to a judge in order to get the warrant for his seizure. Al-Kidd was subsequently held for long periods in a security cell where the lights never went out.
That John Ashcroft is the criminal and al-Kidd his victim is certain. That is how the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sees it. That court has refused to dismiss al-Kidd’s lawsuit against Ashcroft noting that the former Attorney General can be held personally responsible for action “repugnant to the Constitution.” That he knowingly and criminally acted to “arrest and detain American citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions, not because they have committed a crime, but merely because the government wants to investigate them for possible wrongdoing.” Ashcroft’s lawyers avoid the question of the illegality of his actions and simply say that he is immune from lawsuits for actions he took as Attorney General. On that basis they have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit. The Justices have now decided to consider Ashcroft’s request.
Certainly John Ashcroft is not the first high U.S. official to reveal himself as an alleged criminal. Nor is it the first time that high government officials have acted in an unconstitutional manner. Right out of the starting gate , so to speak, the young United States created the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) through which the Federalist party sought, quite unconstitutionally, to jail its political opponents. Andrew Jackson spit in the eye of both the Supreme Court and the Constitution by evicting the Cherokee Indians (1838), James Polk should have been impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors for lying to the Congress in order to start the Mexican-American War (1846), Abraham Lincoln probably violated the Constitution by some of his police actions during the Civil War, the raids and deportations that took place as a result of the Red Scares of the 1920s were at least in part unconstitutional, then you have Watergate, Irangate and now multiple potential Bushgates. Few of the politicians who ordered these criminal actions, or those who carried out those orders, ever faced punishment. [NOT TO SPEAK OF COINTELPRO]
The Position of the Obama Administration
What is interesting about the present case of Ashcroft vs. al-Kidd is that the Obama administration has decided to make illegality acceptable by institutionalizing the concept of immunity for highly placed men like Ashcroft. The administration will try to do this not through legislation, but through precedent– by defending Ashcroft’s claim to immunity before the Supreme Court. At first it seems strange that a professed liberal president such as Barack Obama would do this. But unfortunately, it is quite consistent with the illiberal stance he has maintained on the question of the constitutional responsibility of his predecessors in the Bush White House. From the beginning of his presidency, Obama decided to shield them from the consequences of their crimes. This position was initiated by the president’s “we should look forward” statement in January of 2009. In this statement he made it clear that he did not want to pursue those who had ordered or implemented (in this case) torture under the Bush administration. When popular pressure forced the president to allow his attorney general , Eric Holder, to open an investigation of the issue of torture it was arranged so the inquiry would have no teeth. Publically and up front we were told that no one would be prosecuted whatever the outcome of the probe. That is the last anyone has heard of Holder’s investigation of torture American style. The long and short of this is that the principle set down at Nuremberg, to wit following orders is no excuse for criminal behavior, will not be applied. Nor will giving the orders incur a penalty. The decision to defend Ashcroft’s claim of immunity is in solid accord with this position.
The logic of this position, and its likely consequences, warrants close examination. If we were to ask President Obama why he has decided to defend the immunity of alleged criminals who happen to be high government officials, and if he were to be perfectly candid in his reply, here is what he might say:
1. President Obama – It would be difficult for the president, or those who carry out his orders, to act freely and as needed if they had always to worry about litigation after the fact. This is particularly true in time of war and emergency.
My Reply – This assertion has been made by leaders of states from time immemorial. It is a variation on the raison d’etat argument that has historically allowed all manner of bad behavior under the guise of state interests. On the other hand, it is true that following the law can prove inconvenient under wartime or emergency conditions. Nonetheless, in the long run, lawlessness is much worse than inconvenience. It is to be noted that, in the American case, appointed and elected high officials (particularly attorney generals!) are sworn to uphold the law not to transgress it.
2. President Obama – While I have stopped the more egregious policies of the Bush administration, I am still responsible for the safety of all American citizens and, in our modern age, I have to be able to use all the methods, high tech and otherwise, to achieve this goal. Some of these methods might very well prove unconstitutional (warrantless wiretaps, for instance) and yet I must be free to use them because another 9/11 style attack must be prevented. And, if I am to use these methods, then I can not prosecute those who have done so before me. Otherwise I would be accused of being a hypocrite by my political foes.
My Reply – This argument juxtaposes unattainable 100% security against the traditional freedoms that makes America the country its founders intended. Do we want to sacrifice the latter for the illusion of the former? As James Madison once observed, “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.” That is the slippery slope President Obama seems willing to take us down. It also prioritizes the president’s political interests over the Constitution. This latter point of view can be carried further.
3. President Obama – You have to understand, that if I do not do all that is possible, be it constitutional or otherwise, to protect the nation I put myself in mortal political danger. I open myself to the accusation by my political rivals that I am “soft” on security or terrorism. And, if something does happen, such as another terrorist attack, then I am politically dead.
My Reply – Well, yes, this is so. However, what is also true is that prioritizing politics above law always leads us in the direction of corruption, or worse. By defending Ashcroft isn’t President Obama saying it is all right to break the law if you are highly placed and so lacking in imagination that you can not figure out a legal way of dealing with an emergency? For let us be clear, there is no evidence that after 9/11 the unconstitutional route was the only possible route to defend the country. Were the legal options and their constitutional variants ever seriously itemized and discussed? The Obama administration, like the Bush operatives, have never publically addressed this question.
If the Obama Justice Department proceeds with its plans to defend Ashcroft’s immunity claim and if, as is likely, the Supreme Court upholds that claim, we will be left with a politically based two tier legal system. It will set free to break the law every highly placed federal official every time he or she can claim an emergency situation. Then, after the fact, they will cite the immunity precedent. In the meantime, the fact that high federal officials are sworn to uphold the laws of the land will be rendered worthless, just another bit of political hypocrisy.
So what is it that we want for America? Do we want a two tier legal system where presidents and their appointees can break the law with impunity? Do we want a legal system where it is accepted that citizens and residents can disappear into federal dungeons? Is it all right with us that our fellow citizens, following the orders of the president, will torture, detain, shackle and otherwise abuse others without any regard for law – and they too will be immune? Because, whether they realize it or not, that is what the Obama Justice Department is arguing for when it defends John Ashcroft.
Dwight Eisenhower once asked the question, “how far can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without?” It is time for us to ask this question about the heinous “security” tactics of President George Bush Jr. as well as President Barack Obama’s unfortunate willingness to defend them.
Department of History
West Chester University
West Chester, Pa 19383
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