Thursday, March 05, 2009

Conflicting Signals From Obama on What He's Doing About Bush's Abuses of Power

The New Administration Is Right to Expose the Full Extent of its Predecessor's Blatantly Unconstitutional Actions in the 'War on Terror' -- But Is Dead Wrong to Continue Seeking to Halt Lawsuit Aimed at Holding Bush Accountable for His Warrantless Wiretapping Program

In step toward "greater transparency in government," the Obama administration last week made public nine declassified legal memos issued by the Bush White House that claimed sweeping executive authority to ignore constitutional and statutory limits in its pursuit of the "war on terror" following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But at the same time, the Obama White House is continuing its predecessor's legal fight to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Bush administration's controversial warrantless wiretapping program, on the grounds of national security. A federal appeals court late last week refused to dismiss the suit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, in the case of a now-defunct Muslim charity.(Image courtesy

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Thursday, March 5, 2009)


Dear Readers:

The Obama administration issued two contradictory messages in recent days over the Bush administration's abuse of its executive authority and its outright violations of the Constitution in its pursuit of the "war on terror."

On the one hand, the Obama White House made public a raft of previously-secret Bush administration memorandums that claimed sweeping presidential authority to override constitutional and statutory constraints when rooting out suspected terrorists on American soil.

The Justice Department has promised to declassify and make public other top-secret legal opinions by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other Bush administration lawyers to justify harsh interrogation, surveillance without court warrants, and other national security policies.

On the other hand, the Obama administration is continuing -- despite losing in a federal appeals court -- a legal fight begun under its predecessor to stop a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program by keeping secret key government evidence on the grounds of national security.

The move sets up a likely constitutional confrontation between the executive and judicial branches of government over whether national security can be invoked to bar judicial review of the constitutionality of the warrantless eavesdropping.

It also casts serious doubts on whether the Obama administration will hold Bush officials accountable.


The nine previously secret memos by Bush administration attorneys issued in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington make chilling reading for anyone who cares about the government upholding the Constitution and the rule of law.

The memos assert that the president has blanket authority to employ the armed forces inside the United States in the "war on terror" -- including raids on suspected terrorists -- without congressional approval or court warrants.

The legal opinions also asserted that:

# the president could unilaterally abrogate foreign treaties -- in spite of the fact that since Congress has the sole authority under the Constitution to ratify treaties, it likewise has the sole authority to terminate them;

# ignore any guidance from Congress in dealing with detainees suspected of terrorism and ignore provisions of bills passed by Congress that he signed into law -- a clear breach of the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches and a dereliction of the president's responsibility to "faithfully execute the laws;"

# conduct a program of domestic electronic eavesdropping without court warrants -- despite a unanimous 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such warrants are required under the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable government searches and seizures.


While the Obama White House has reversed many Bush policies, it remains mystifying why it is continuing to fight against a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Bush's warrantless surveillance program -- despite losing a round in a federal appeals court late last week.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused Friday to dismiss the suit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two attorneys who represented a now-defunct Muslim charity based in Saudi Arabia and whose telephone conversations were wiretapped without court warrants.

The attorneys, who represented the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, sued the Bush administration after the Treasury Department erroneously released a top-secret memo that showed that their telephone conversations with their former client were eavesdropped on without a court warrant having been issued for the wiretaps.

The documents were subsequently returned to the government. The attorneys say they need them to prove their case. The government says their release in public would harm national security.

I say the greater damage to the nation is a government that abuses its authority and power -- and officials of that government are allowed to get away with it. officials of the Bush administration abused their authority and violated the law.

When Barack Obama took the oath of office in January to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" as the nation's 44th president, he also took on the responsibility to make sure that those officials who violated the law and abused their power under his predecessor be held accountable.

It's high time the new president carry out that responsibility.

Skeeter Sanders
Editor & Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report

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Volume IV, Number 18
Copyright 2009,Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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