Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gonzalez: A "Grave Threat" to Our Liberties?

From a USA Today article regarding Atty. General Alberto Gonzalez' comments on the President's "Domestic / Terrorist Surveillance Program" we find the following quote:

"The administration has maintained that its warrantless surveillance program focuses on international calls involving suspected terrorists, and dismisses charges that it is illegal because it bypasses federal law requiring a judge-issued warrant for such eavesdropping."

That's right. The Bush administration's position is that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which allowed the President to use "all necessary and appropriate" actions to confront the horrors of 9-11, allows him to bypass a federal statute that requires a warrant for "such eavesdropping" as well as bypass the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.

In short, a general statement passed hastily in the wake of 9/11, trumps a federal statute and the the Constitution Bush swore to uphold!

But there's also a backup plan. If the AUMF doesn't grant the President this power, Gonzales believes, his status as the "Unitary Chief Executive" puts him above the law. Here's what Alberto said:

"We believe the president has the authority under the authorization of military force and inherent authority of the constitution to engage in this sort of program, but we want to supplement that authority."

Shorter version: The Constitution puts us above the law, the Congress' general grant of authority puts above the law, but we want more power, without any judicial oversight!

With this in mind, I found this scary comparison between what Alberto's comments and the constitution of the former Soviet Union. (h/t Unqualified Offerings)

Here's what Alberto said as quoted by USA Today:

"Gonzales told about 400 cadets from the Air Force Academy's political science and law classes that some see the program as on the verge of stifling freedom rather that protecting the country.

“But this view is shortsighted,” he said. “Its definition of freedom — one utterly divorced from civic responsibility — is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people.”"

Here is an excerpt from Article 39 of the Soviet constitution, as quoted by Richard Schifter in a 1987 address to the American Bar Association:

"Enjoyment by citizens of their rights and freedoms must not be to the detriment of the interest of society or the state. . . ."

Or, from Article 59...

"Citizens’ exercise of their rights and freedoms is inseparable from the performance of their duties and obligations."

So, to paraphrase Carl the Groundskeeper from Caddyshack, "We've got (similarities to the Soviet Union) goin' for us.. which is nice."

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