Friday, December 07, 2007

Can we call Bush a tyrant, now?

By Libby

We've known for many years that our president operated under the theory of the unitary executive, but until now we've been in the dark as to how he justified the unprecendented subversion of constitutional checks and balances that have been the hallmark of his regime. Now comes Emptywheel who points us to this speech by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It appears Mr. Whitehouse has been doing some serious digging at the OLC and uncovered some explosive legal 'reasoning' that is sure to shock even the most jaded Beltway observer.

He starts with the boneheaded move the Congress blithely, and blindly, made in haste so as not to interfere with their vacation plans.

Let's start with number one. Bear in mind that the so-called Protect America Act that was stampeded through this great body in August provides no - zero - statutory protections for Americans traveling abroad from government wiretapping. None if you're a businesswoman traveling on business overseas, none if you're a father taking the kids to the Caribbean, none if you're visiting uncles or aunts in Italy or Ireland, none even if you're a soldier in the uniform of the United States posted overseas. The Bush Administration provided in that hastily-passed law no statutory restrictions on their ability to wiretap you at will, to tap your cell phone, your e-mail, whatever. [...]

So unless Congress acts, here is what legally prevents this President from wiretapping Americans traveling abroad at will: nothing. Nothing.

He goes on to detail the specifics of his research but here's the takeaway points.

In a nutshell, these three Bush administration legal propositions boil down to this:

1. "I don't have to follow my own rules, and I don't have to tell you when I'm breaking them."

2. "I get to determine what my own powers are."

3. "The Department of Justice doesn't tell me what the law is, I tell the Department of Justice what the law is."

Rather breathtaking, no? Is there any other way to read this except that Bush has deemed himself to be bound by no law of the land? As I read this, I'm reminded of our recent discussion here on Chavez, so let's review for a moment, the definition of tyrant. An absolute ruler who governs without restrictions.

Anybody still willing to argue Bush doesn't better fit that description?

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