Friday :: Jun 30, 2006

A Punch In The Face, Or A Tweak?

by Steve

"It appears to be about as broad a holding as you could imagine. It's very broad, it's very significant, and it's a slam."
--Unnamed Bush administration lawyer on yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling

Peter Baker and Michael Abramowitz write a good analysis of the ramifications of the Guantanamo decision in the Washington Post today, which contains the usual brown nosing from Lindsey Graham and the dead-on conclusion that what the court nixed yesterday was Bush’s overall governing approach that “it is better to act than to ask permission”.

For five years, President Bush waged war as he saw fit. If intelligence officers needed to eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls without warrants, he authorized it. If the military wanted to hold terrorism suspects without trial, he let it.
Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.

The New York Times, in its lead editorial today, distilled the importance of yesterday’s ruling quite nicely:

The message of this ruling is that the executive branch cannot continue in its remarkable insistence that because there is a war on terror, it no longer needs to follow established procedures that would subject it to scrutiny by another branch of government. The justices rejected the administration's constant refrain — made in everything from its "enemy combatant" policies to its defense of the National Security Agency's domestic spying — that the authority Congress granted the president to use force after Sept. 11, the exigencies of wartime, or simply the inherent powers of the presidency allow President Bush to trample on existing laws as he sees fit.

The story also tied in the little noticed main finding from Jane Mayer’s New Yorker piece this week, which is that David Addington wrote the justification for the now-tossed military tribunal program and got it implemented through Shooter’s office without consulting at all with Condi or Colin Powell.

Operationally, the administration through Tony Snow and the Pentagon is downplaying the impact of yesterday’s ruling, and even going so far as to claim that there will be little impact at all, which is a lie. (In typical Bush fashion, he even nominated the Justice Department attorney who argued the legality of the now-tossed military tribunal program to the DC Court of Appeals yesterday.) The administration’s sycophants in Congress will scurry to take credit now for “fixing” an illegal program that has on it their own fingerprints. But the decision allows Democrats to freshly frame Bush and Cheney’s detainee, rendition, and NSA wiretapping programs as being illegally operated.

Steve :: 8:40 AM :: Comments (9) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!