President Bush’s Unchecked Presidential Power

Bruce Schneier has a wonderful, fact-filled blog entry about President Bush’s Unchecked Presidential Power. It was published today in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s OpEd section.

This isn’t about the spying, although that’s a major issue in itself. This is about the Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search. This is about circumventing a teeny tiny check by the judicial branch, placed there by the legislative branch, placed there 27 years ago — on the last occasion that the executive branch abused its power so broadly.

In defending this secret spying on Americans, Bush said that he relied on his constitutional powers (Article 2) and the joint resolution passed by Congress after 9/11 that led to the war in Iraq. This rationale was spelled out in a memo written by John Yoo, a White House attorney, less than two weeks after the attacks of 9/11. It’s a dense read and a terrifying piece of legal contortionism, but it basically says that the president has unlimited powers to fight terrorism. He can spy on anyone, arrest anyone, and kidnap anyone and ship him to another country … merely on the suspicion that he might be a terrorist. And according to the memo, this power lasts until there is no more terrorism in the world.

It is getting pretty scary over there in Washington.

We have a president who appears to have placed himself above the law, surrounded by lawyers who are telling him that it’s okay.

We have a congress who is just now starting to think about investigating these actions.

We have a press who sat on this story for quite a long time, and who doesn’t seem to be pushing this issue nearly hard enough.

And, judging from all the comments on Bruce’s blog posting, we have a country which is dividing itself around this issue.

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