Monday, January 08, 2007

Despite Outward Appearances, Bush Still Determined to Have It His Way on Iraq, War on Terror

President Now Wants to Escalate the War By Sending In 20G More Troops -- and Expand His Violation of Your Constitutional Right to Privacy By Opening Your PAPER Mail Without Court Warrants

By Skeeter Sanders

So you thought that with the start of the new year, the Bush administration -- humiliated by the voters last November -- would change course in his foreign and domestic policies relating to the war on terror, right?

Think again.

The first week of 2007 -- which saw Democrats take control of the House and Senate for the first time in 12 years -- has clearly shown that President Bush hasn't gotten the message that the voters sent him loud and clear on November 7 and is still going full steam ahead with his ill-conceived war in Iraq and his blatantly unconstitutional abuses of executive power on the home front.

Proposed U.S. Troop Escalation in Iraq Is Vietnam All Over Again

Despite mounting opposition from within the Pentagon and in Congress, Bush is likely to push for an escalation of U.S. military involvement in Iraq by sending up to 20,000 additional troops to the civil war-torn country. The president is expected to unveil his new Iraq strategy in a nationally-televised address to the nation as early as Wednesday.

The administration and much of the mainstream media calls it a "surge." Baloney. It's an escalation, pure and simple -- the opening act in sucking this country into another Vietnam. Indeed, by sending in more troops, Bush would be confirming what this blogger declared over eight months ago: that the war in Iraq has become "Vietnam in the Desert."

By now, it should be clear to everyone that this president is determined to have his own way -- and screw you if you don't like it.

Pelosi Hints Congress May Deny Funding For Iraq Escalation

But if Bush thinks that the new, Democratic-controlled Congress -- especially the House -- is going to give him an continued rubber stamp on Iraq, as its GOP-controlled predecessor had, then he's smoking something other than tobacco.

Already, newly sworn-in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) declared Sunday that congressional Democrats will not give President Bush "a blank check to wage war in Iraq," hinting Congress could exercise its constitutional control of the federal pursestrings to deny funding if he seeks additional troops.

"If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request, we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now," she said in an interview Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them. But if the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it," said Pelosi. "And this is new for him, because up until now, the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions."

The war will have cost the nation $1 trillion "if it ended now," the speaker continued. "But more important than that, the lives lost, the casualties sustained, the lost reputation in the world, and the damage to our military readiness. For these and other reasons, we have to say to the president, in your speech ... we want to see a plan in a new direction because the direction you've been taking us in has not been successful."

Your Mail Is No Longer Safe From Government Snooping

That the president appears determined to defy the voters' will and increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq instead of formulating a plan for bringing them home is bad enough. For any American old enough to remember Vietnam -- and this blogger is one of them -- it's history repeating itself right before their eyes.

But to make matters even worse, Bush appears hell-bent and determined to stomp the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution into oblivion and wipe out the American people's right to privacy by not only eavesdropping on their telephone and Internet conversations without court warrants but also open their private paper mail without court warrants.

A little-noticed signing statement attached to postal legislation signed by Bush in mid-December may have opened the way for the government to open your paper mail -- old-fashioned "snail mail" in this Internet age -- without a warrant.

The White House adamantly denies any change in policy. Don't you believe that for a New York minute. Indeed, it was a New York newspaper that broke the story. No, not the highbrow and so-called "liberal elitist" New York Times, but the very blue-collar Daily News.

That's right. The Daily News -- Archie Bunker's favorite tabloid.

The very same Daily News that 40 years ago branded Vietnam War protesters "slackers," "pinkos" and "commie lovers" in its editorials, blew the whistle on this president's latest attack on the Fourth Amendment in typical New York tabloid fashion: "PREZ GOES POSTAL -- Outrage as Bush Claims New Powers to Open YOUR Mail."

And that was on the inside pages. The front page had a full-sized photo of a smiling Bush with the screaming headline, "You've Got Mail --And It's Mine!"

The new postal-reform law explicitly requires government agents to get warrants to open first-class letters. But when he signed the bill -- one of the last bills passed by the now-defunct GOP-controlled 109th Congress -- Bush added a statement saying that his administration would construe that provision "in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances."

Bush Again Defying Nixon-Era Supreme Court Ruling

This is pure, unadulterated hubris on the part of the president. This blogger has hammered away in column after column for nearly a year that Bush is claiming an executive authority to conduct surveillance operations without court warrants that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously more than a generation ago the Constitution does not give him.

The justices declared in 1972 that obtaining court warrants prior to undergoing surveillance of Americans' private communications is required by the Fourth Amendment. Congress, exercising its authority to enforce the Fourth Amendment "with appropriate legislation," passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, that explicitly mandates the administration to obtain court warrants for such surveillance.

"[This] signing statement raises serious questions whether he is authorizing opening of mail contrary to [both] the Constitution and to laws enacted by Congress," said Ann Beeson, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. "What is the purpose of the signing statement if it isn't that?" Beeson said the ACLU plans to file a request for information on how this exception will be used and to ask whether it has already been used to open mail.

Statement Draws Bipartisan Fire on Capitol Hill

Bush made his move while Congress was in recess for the holidays and it comes a year almost to the day after after his secret National Security Agency domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed by The New York Times.

The president's latest signing statement caught Capitol Hill by surprise -- and touched off angry protests on both sides of the aisle.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who guided the postal-reform bill through the Senate, called on Bush to clarify his intent. The bill, Collins said, "does nothing to alter the protections of privacy and civil liberties provided by the Constitution and other federal laws," reminding Bush that the FISA statute "and our federal criminal rules require prior judicial approval before domestic sealed mail can be searched."

Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) also took issue with Bush's action. "Every American wants foolproof protection against terrorism. But history has shown it can and should be done within the confines of the Constitution. This last-minute, irregular and unauthorized reinterpretation of a duly passed law is the exact type of maneuver that voters so resoundingly rejected in November," Schumer said.

Bush Signing Statements a Startling Departure From Past Presidents' Practices

Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements during his presidency, more than all of his 42 predecessors combined, according to the American Bar Association. Traditionally, presidents have used signing statements for such purposes as instructing executive-branch agencies how to carry out new laws passed by Congress.

But Bush's statements have often asserted the president's right to revise, interpret or disregard laws on national security and constitutional grounds. "That non-veto hamstrings Congress because Congress cannot respond to a signing statement," ABA President Michael Greco said. The practice, he added, "is harming the separation of powers [between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government]."

Bush's signing statements are, as far as this blogger is concerned, a blatantly unconstitutional abuse of the president's executive authority. They come on top of Bush doing away with the constitutionally-protected right of habeas corpus with his signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

You Could Be Branded an "Enemy Combatant" and Detained for Years Without Charge

Bush browbeated the GOP-led Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling last June that the
system of military tribunals he established after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to prosecute terrorism suspects was unconstitutional because Congress never granted him authority to do so.

The new law enables the Bush administration to declare anyone, including U.S. citizens -- yes, even you -- an "enemy combatant" and have you locked up in a detention cell for months and even years without charge or trial -- in clear violation of not only the U.S. Constitution, but also of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.

The time has come for Bush's signing statements to be challenged in court and struck down as the unconstitutional abuses of presidential power that they are.

And the time is long overdue for Congress to assert its constitutional authority and hold this president accountable for his abuses.

# # #

Volume II, Number 5
Copyright 2007, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


Sphere: Related Content