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October 04, 2007


Someone got the wrong dictionary again, I suppose. The one where execution is defined exclusively as "putting to death". Faithful execution of the law indeed (faithful defined as: with religious fervour).

Ceterum censeo
There is enough for a full Nuremberg (conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity). Off with their heads!

Je repete:

The lawyers in Shooter's dank basement have carefully crafted the Constitutional theory under which Bush operates. It's called The Theory of We Get To Do Whatever The Fuck We Want.

As we can see.

From the article:

and officials say the C.I.A. again is holding prisoners in “black sites” overseas.

what does that remind me of, oh yes:

No, Frodo. The spirit of Sauron endured. His life force is bound to the Ring and the Ring survived. Sauron has returned. His orcs have multiplied. His fortress of Barad-Dur is rebuilt in the land of Mordor. Sauron needs only this Ring to cover all the lands of a second darkness. He is seeking it. Seeking it, all his thought is bent on it. The Ring yearns above all else to return to the hand of its master. They are one, the Ring and the Dark Lord.

Glenn Greenwald:

But in another, more important, sense, this story reveals nothing new. As a country, we've known undeniably for almost two years now that we have a lawless government and a President who routinely orders our laws to be violated. His top officials have been repeatedly caught lying outright to Congress on the most critical questions we face. They have argued out in the open that the "constitutional duty" to defend the country means that nothing -- including our "laws" -- can limit what the President does.

It has long been known that we are torturing, holding detainees in secret prisons beyond the reach of law and civilization, sending detainees to the worst human rights abusers to be tortured, and subjecting them ourselves to all sorts of treatment which both our own laws and the treaties to which we are a party plainly prohibit. None of this is new.

And we have decided, collectively as a country, to do nothing about that.

Or, as Daniel Ellsburg put it: Let me simplify this and not just to be rhetorical: A coup has occurred.

Also from the article:

“On national security matters generally, there was a sense that Comey was a wimp and that Comey was disloyal,” said one Justice Department official who heard the White House talk, expressed with particular force by Mr. Addington.

This really says it all about the kind of folks that populate the highest levels of the United States government. It's like a fncking contest between college frat boys to see who can do the most shots before passing out. Anyone who decides not to participate is a "wimp" and not a good friend - to be talked about behind their back and eventually shunned.

What's that thing Brad DeLong is always saying about doing something or other and doing it now? We should do that.

This doesn't surprise me one bit, but I didn't know specifically about this memo. I know a number of the legal documents we've never seen--I didn't know about anything from 2005. And how many more don't we know about? How long will these revelations be trickling out, or simply remain secret?

The democratic candidates need to promise a full investigation. Conducted by either a special prosecutor, an independent comission, or (preferably) both.

On a lighter note, I do like James Comey:

At one testy 2004 White House meeting, when Mr. Comey stated that “no lawyer” would endorse Mr. Yoo’s justification for the N.S.A. program, Mr. Addington demurred, saying he was a lawyer and found it convincing. Mr. Comey shot back: “No good lawyer,” according to someone present.

I wish the words "this makes me sick" hadn't been devalued by metaphoric use. I am so ashamed of having participated in supporting a government that does this sort of thing.

Where was Condi Rice when all this sh1t was going on?

They also shouldn't confirm Mukasey without seeing this document. Of course, they wouldn't filibuster Gonzales (gee, Ken Salazar, it looks like he wasn't telling you the truth) so I'm not expecting much.

that comey line was great - i agree katherine. particularly b/c it was directed to addington

Yah, I've already e-mailed that Comey quote to my usual victims.

If the Dems confirm Mukasey without getting all these documents, then I fail to see why 2006 made much difference.

Okay, I think I've officially been radicalized.

Impeach them all and let God sort them out.

As Alberto says, they don't engage in torture. They engage in what you or I would call torture, but they don't define it the same way we do. And they lambasted Clinton for parsing the meaning of "is."

Hi, I'm writing a book considering a new united Intelligence federal branch. This would impose new checks and balances on all government intelligence; further, unite intelligence with a peace directive.

Now, writing such a book as a U.S. citizen hasn't put me into the greatest spotlight with the agencies.

Torture: we should put the simple contant spying on particular citizens in the catagory of torture. Second, the use of electronic wave or laser devices within automobiles, airplanes and possibily even satillites, used upon selected citizens, constitutes,torture.

Before the use of electronics as weapons, it was biochemical agents placed into citizens homes or apartments. Of which I have collected about 25 samples. Yes, torture, even if I collected would should have harmed me.

My point is, that a new checks and balances for all intelligence agencies is looking pretty appealing, for a big change in the coming new future.


Aaron Esselstrom

Wow, from comments at Balkin's place comes this excerpt from a Kung Fu Monkey post (edited for posting-rules compliance):

We are faced with utterly shameless men. Cheney and the rest are looking our representatives right in the eye and saying "You don't have the balls to take down a government. You don't have the sheer testicular fortitude to call us lying sonuvab[1]tches when we lie, to stop us from kicking the rule of law and the Constitution in the ass. You just don't. What's beyond that abyss -- what that would do to our government and our identity as a nation -- terrifies you too much. So get the f[n]ck out of our way."
I cannot help but think that as Nixon walked to the chopper, somewhere in the darkened hallways of the White House Dick Cheney shook his head, spit, and whispered: "P[n]ssy."

A-yup. The whole post is worth reading (I'm sure people have seen it before).

I agree with hilzoy on everything here -- except on the one thing that isn't here: impeachment.

Without strongly advocating impeachment, posts like this one have become more discouraging than useful, more evidence about how useless it is merely to be well-informed about the state of our degradation. Without strongly advocating impeachment, bloggers might as well just settle on one title -- perhaps "Handwringing About Yet Another Bush/Cheney Crime" -- and just add a number, e.g., #323,709. Without actively supporting impeachment, readers might as well look in the mirror when they wonder "why isn't anything being done?"

After 7 years, I'm guessing most readers have more than a suspicion that Bush and Cheney are bad for the country and deserve punishment, and that each passing day will provide fresh tidbits of evidence to confirm them in that.

I think it's beyond high time for people with soapboxes like this one not to just document the atrocities, but to push for the remedy our Constitution envisions -- whether or not it's "feasible," whether or not "there's enough time," whether or not it "might hurt election prospects." And whether or not their preferred candidate does. (Neither does mine.)

Well, I support impeachment.

(I do tend to focus more on post-2009 solutions because I think there's more of a chance of convincing Democratic candidates to support them. If Obama or Edwards said: we're going to need a truth commission/special prosecutor to investigate this, there would be pressure for the other one & Hillary to make the same promise. Unfortunately, my efforts to start this little bandwagon have been fitful & futile).

The problem with holding up Mukasey's confirmation to get the White House to cough up the documents is that Bush doesn't care whether Mukasey gets confirmed. Peter Keisler can continue as acting AG, and he's likely to be worse than Mukasey. So if the Senate delays, Bush gets to keep someone who may very well be more compliant and he gets to hammer the Democrats for helping terrorists and child predators by depriving the country of an attorney general. Where's Leahy's leverage? I missing something?

Yes, you're missing something. Leahy doesn't need to care whether Mukasey gets confirmed, either -- because Mukasey won't ever matter on anything of importance, Cheney and Addington will.

By demanding papers or a special prosecutor, he could have made that point, and at least tarnished Mukasey's camouflage value and made the media pay some attention to the fact that AttorneyGate continues, just with a new face at DoJ.

And, who knows, he might have got something. Now he's given up, and he got nothing. Our elected representatives don't need our help thinking of reasons why they can't accomplish anything, they're good enough at that themselves.

Katherine, I'm glad you support impeachment; thanks!

Now advocate it. Here. In a post. Please.

Re your focus on post-2009 solutions: I think we don't need to care whether future presidents support this one's impeachment. That's one branch of government and two years removed from who we need and when we need them. We need a robust, militant Congress, not presidents giving permission or a blessing for a commission of some kind.

"As Alberto says, they don't engage in torture. They engage in what you or I would call torture, but they don't define it the same way we do."

Actually, they do consider everything they do to be torture, if it is done by someone else to an American.

Otherwise, you are correct.

I thought this was obvious, but, by post-2009 solutions, I mean what I discussed above: an investigation by a special prosecutor that may or may not lead to appropriate charges, or an independent truth commission with subpoena power, etc. Not a statement issued in 2009 that actually in hindsight we should have impeached Bush.

I agree that we need Congress to assert itself, but I think actually having the truth about these policies come out is going to discredit them & lead to legislative changes, & I am naturally a little more enamored of things that I have some hope of happening.

I don't really have time to post. Not the sort of post that would actually convince anyone, at least.

Katherine, I would love to see something like that, if only to discover as much of the truth as possible.

As far as bringing charges, very unlikely as Bush can do a general pardon for crimes committed even if not yet indicted or charged with those crimes.

Well, I support impeachment.

'bout damn time ;)

Don't forget that Alberto Gonzales, despite having left office, can still be impeached, convicted, and disqualified to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States. Is perjury an impeachable offense only when it involves blowjobs?

It would be nice, if leading candidates would imply that Bush&accomplices have a choice: Either stand trial in the US or issue a pardon to yourself. In the latter case the trial would not be in the US but abroad because the candidate would be very open to extradition of Bush&accomplices to any country demanding it (provided the trial [and aftermath] is in public and recorded for posterity).
I am also in favor of an constitutional amendment prohibiting self-serving presidential pardons.
A possible version:

The constitution of the United States shall thus be amended:

1. The president may pardon only specific persons for specific crimes that they have been convicted of.1a. Preemptive pardons and/or pardons that do not exactly specify the crime they apply to are nil and void.

2. Pardons shall not be given for crimes comitted by or on behalf of members of the executive branch without the consent of the US senate expressed by a majority of 60% + 1 vote.

This issue like every other issue that encroaches on executive power is a moot point if there ever was one. Who among us is naive enough to believe that a political party would enact legislation that held out the potential of curtailing executive power granted to any sitting president? Be they republican, democrat or independent, executive power is the name of the game. All hold on to it regardless of political party.
Rules of law? When, in the annuals of history of our judicial oversight committees, have we usurped presidential powers that violated the Constitution, civil liberties and or Federal Statutory Reporting Requirements?
Mere rumblings, I fear.

I guarantee that constitutional amendment gets the requisite support the day after Hillary Clinton is sworn in as President.

I support impeachment too. One problem, though, is that the VP has likely acted in ways that insulate him from liability. I think it would be very hard to get an impeachment for convincing the President that illegal act X is in the best interests of the US. He's one of a number of advisors, and, formally at least, less an agent than most of them.

I support, more strongly, investigation post-2009. Presumably, we'll have the investigative resources of the executive branch, and access to evidence that Congress can only dream of.

My other concern about impeachment is whether it makes war with Iran more likely.

At risk of sounding shrill, what about good old conspiracy? The torture statute specifically criminalizes conspiracy. There's also contempt of Congress, which I'm sure he'll take care of if they actually require certain testimony & documents.

I know they got a bunch of OLC advice covering themselves on various things, but OLC is within the executive branch. The courts have to do what the courts have to do, but I don't thing Congress has to accede to the administrations use of OLC as mob-lawyers-with-superpowers.

I think actually having the truth about these policies come out is going to discredit them & lead to legislative changes...

Would that it were so. But it isn't, or we'd have already seen those changes. This memo isn't exactly the first bit of evidence of malfeasance about torture or about deep rooted executive arrogance.

And legislative changes will simply be ignored when they're inconvenient to this Bush, this Cheney, or the next ones. The stigma of impeachment, by contrast, would attach whether it prevails in the Senate or not.

Re CharleyCarp's comment about Cheney's insulated liability: his fingerprints are on every major impeachable decision made by this White House, to a degree that makes him a co-conspirator if not the lead conspirator. He could and should be impeached on precisely the same grounds that the president could and should be. Impeachment is not a criminal trial. It is a political trial. We don't need a smoking gun of criminal wrongdoing. We need common sense about what the Constitution means versus what these guys are doing.

Re Iran -- I think it would make Iran war less likely; that's part of Kucinich's motive for introducing H.Res.333. But (a) who knows and (b) so what; if that triggers a war, so would an investigation or a cross look, and if we were to abandon something as important impeachment on that basis, we can be bluffed out of anything. Indeed, bluffing would hardly be necessary.

We don't need a smoking gun of criminal wrongdoing. Though I believe there are such smoking guns, for example in Comey's testimony about the White House continuing FISA lawbreaking even in the face of internal objections.

Katherine, I understood your call for post-2009 investigations exactly as you explained it. My objections remain the same: wrong time, wrong branch of government. I don't see settling for it in advance in forums like this one.

And yes, you could convince people. I've read you, and I'm convinced of that.

I'd prefer impeachment too. An investigation WOULD matter. There's a tremendous amount we don't know. Much of what we do know hasn't been publicly reported because it was "old news" by the time it was confirmed. An official investigation that could take testimony & declassify documents & write the report would make a difference. It would affect public opinion & make it more politically feasible to strengthen the laws on this.

If public knowledge made no difference, they wouldn't be so hell bent on keeping all of this secret.

Your disparaging the solutions I was focused on does not make me exactly eager to write made-to-order posts on the one you're focused on.

I have no choice but to disagree with those solutions if I think they're not the right solutions and tend to undermine the one I prefer. I don't think a factual counterargument is disparaging. I certainly acknowledge that more could be learned; I just think that enough already has been learned.

But I'm sorry for offending you, that was not my intent; I'm trying to write brief arguments which come off more terse than I should have allowed them to. And I'm trying to win in every way I can think of. For that I need allies like you.

...and impeachment proceedings could uncover more evidence than other proceedings -- failure to comply with impeachment related subpoenas is itself impeachable.

Well, I called my senators and urged them to support impeachment, my rep is next. I also sent them all this email.

Considering Warner's one of my senators, and my representative is a follow-the-line Republican, I'm not expecting anything from them. And I wonder if Webb has the power to convince the other Democrats to do something instead of wimping out. Probably not.

To the Honorable Congresscritter,

Yesterday, the New York Times, in an article titled "Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations", provided evidence that the Bush administration has continued to torture people, despite the recent law Congress passed re-confirming that yes, torture is illegal.

In doing this, the Bush administration has given up our moral authority and endangered our soldiers in the field, as well as violating many of our fundamental principles and breaking a law specifically worded to ban the kinds of torture they have been ordering.

Therefore, I ask you what you intend to do in regards to the fact that the entire Executive Branch of the US government is blatantly violating the law and the fundamental principles America is supposed to stand for, and by doing so bringing shame and humiliation upon our country.

The Constitution has a specific remedy for Presidents and Vice-Presidents who commit high crimes, which war crimes like torture certainly count as. That remedy is impeachment. The executive branch has no respect for our law or traditions and has grossly violated our fundamental principles. They must be removed from office immediately, to prevent them from doing more damage, and then they should suffer the consequences of committing and ordering such heinous crimes. Otherwise, our principles mean nothing.

In conclusion, I urge you to help bring these men down, before they harm more innocent people, our soldiers, and our principles. Both George Bush and Dick Cheney are completely unfit for office and should be impeached immediately.

Thank you for your time,

They are enemies of the nation. They won't even be trusted when they are out of office. They have affiliated with Al-Qaida itself. They are doomed, not to have a pleasant day the rest of their lives. Although the U.S. will not condone torture to these current office holders, they, after their hearings and prosecution, will remain spied on, for the rest of their lives. We cannot afford them to tabernacle with Al-Qaida after their stay in office, in an attempt to further attack us again. Won’t happen on my time, or yours.

But then again, with these kinds of opinions that I have, that’s why they call me a terrorist. That is, a good U.S. citizen thoroughly done with them, and actively seeking new and better ways to run federal government to shut up the loopholes allowing for such catastrophes.
Al Gores book, “The assault on Reason” is very good indeed. I suppose even Al has become a terrorist in the administrations eyes. They are done.
Do not believe in the idea that U.S.citizens could be terrorists. Fortunately, their word is just about as good as dirt. And what they call a terrorist may well just be type of person that this nation needs. Good U.S. citizens with an agenda of righteousness for the nation.

may I quote a paragraph from my up and coming book.

"The original structure of three branches of federal government worked until the appearance of Intelligence based agencies under the Presidents command, began to throw off the powers of the three branches. These agencies have grown big and diverse. Technology and our digital age have vamped up both intelligence and security possibilities, both in and out of the United States. The President began gaining too much strength and control, suggesting over time, the lesser importance of the Judiciary or Congress over the Executive. The concept of checks and balances may have gone out of check without us realizing it."

From such view, in my book I am proposing a new fourth federal branch of government along the lines of an Intelligence branch, under the provision of checks and balances. Further, such new Intelligence branch sets a course and direction for America and heals the relations with the rest of the world.

Thanks for listening, lets have hope and be open to change.

Aaron Esselstrom

My gut churns, not merely at the reprehensible behavior of the executive, but at the cowardice of a legislature that refuses to bring this man to justice.

TN, I agree that as a matter of constitutional law, a smoking gun isn't required, and conspircy ought to be sufficient. I also agree that failure to produce documents is itself impeachable.

We have two problems, though. Problem one is that there isn't a House majority for passing articles. I know you're working to change that, and I appreciate your efforts. The building pressure that comes from them is to the good, I think.

Problem 2, though, is the lack of a super-majority for conviction in the Senate. I don't know what can really be done about this -- I suppose sufficient investigation might bring up evidence even generally loyal Republicans in the Senate can't ignore. It's clear that they're not willing to go that way yet, on what we know right now.

Obviously, coming up with some kind of hope on problem 2 is part of the solution to problem 1: House members will line up once they think the Senate has a reasonable shot at removal. I presume you and your colleagues have a game plan on problem 2 -- and I don't expect to be given chapter and verse in a public forum.

Even if the Senate does not remove, impeachment proceedings will serve two salutary purposes, as seen with Bill Clinton:

1) it will keep the accused too busy to get into quite as much trouble, and encourage them to keep their heads down by, say, not bombing Iran.

2) it will tar the Republican Party in the next election or two.

So it's win-win.

Just so I'm clear, I would NOT recommend impeachment just for these purposes in the absence of good grounds. Quite the contrary, I think the Republican Congressmembers who impeached Bill Clinton violated their oaths of office by impeaching on grounds that did not merit impeachment even if proved. I would hate to see the Democrats impeach just for revenge. But refusing to impeach for fear of being seen as vengeful is just as bad if not worse.

I can't agree any more strongly with trilobite's point, but for completely different reasons, that impeachment is vital even if it doesn't "succeed" in the Senate.

What does it mean if Congress fails to bring articles of impeachment in the face of

- the documented policy of torture, in violation of U.S. law and treaty,
- violation of laws against surveillance of U.S. citizens,
- outright lying,
- refusal to provide documents or testimony,
- the use of monies appropriated for one purpose to wage an illegal war of aggression (secretly, long before the official invasion began),
- unilateral re-writing of laws through signing statements,
and much more.

It sends the message to the American people and the courts that these are just malleable political questions, that the form of government we've been operating under can in fact be changed at will by an executive branch willing to defy Congress and avoid the courts.

I agree, Nell, but I sometimes worry about the message sent by an impeachment that fails to convict. It's possible that the resulting Republican-spewed message of "vindication" could be worse than having Congress fail to act in the first place.

Also, I'm extremely doubtful about trilobite's point 1. I have no reason to believe that impeachment proceedings would interfere with any Bush-Cheney plans for an attack on Iran. To the contrary, like Charley, I fear it may make an attack more likely.

Bush & Cheney should be impeached, but it won't happen. What I'm hoping for instead are criminal prosecutions after the immense scope of this Administration's criminality is exposed by the next (Democratic) Administration.

What's happened in the last seven years has been so illegal and un-American (in the best sense) that we can't just let this pass. Doing nothing just because these criminals are out of power will make their damage to the checks-and-balances structure of our government permanent. It will mean that any subsequent rogue presidency can get away with it too. Imagine Nixon getting away with Watergate, only 100x worse. Back then we prided ourselves in saying, "the system worked." What do we say now?

Redhand, how are we going to have these prosecutions after Bush issues his blanket pardons in January 2009?

Maybe the US could reduce the deficit by selling the pardoned ones to the highest foreign bidder for prosecution (and a special no-bid contract for Iraq on Rummy).
I think a have a sound legal opinion somewhere that this would be legal, if the buyer gives (nonbinding) assurances that the waterboarding will be kept to the minimum necessary to get the desired confessions. ;-)

But Nell, why isn't failure to convict the exact message, only delivered yet more strongly, than failure to prosecute?

Failure to convict is on the Senators who don't vote to convict. Who, if it happened that way, would be overwhelmingly Republican.

Failure to prosecute sends the message that no one in Congress cares about these crimes, that there's a bipartisan agreement to make commitment to the constitution solely a matter of electoral choice.

Before anyone misreads my previous comment as wanting to do impeachment for electoral advantage:

Seventy percent of the people in this country are unhappy about being led by criminals. The administration's blatant defiance of the law is unsettling to independent voters, and some Republican voters; Democratic voters have been seething for many years, some since December 2001.

Hearings and testimony on the impeachable offenses would, I think, make it clear this isn't a "partisan witch hunt" (which the Clinton impeachment certainly was, and the public's reaction showed that people understood). It would deepen the public's understanding of the distance that this administration has taken us (with the help of a previously supine Congress).

Senators would have their chance to repudiate the crimes of this regime. Or not.

Impeachment has to be redeemed for the constitutional function for which it was intended. Impeaching Clinton and not this lying, corrupt pair (because it should be both Cheney and Bush) says there is no crime for which a president can ever be impeached again.

More directly on the post topic: Several places around the web, I've seen this question asked, but I'd like to see it asked by the press, and by blogs in a united way:

The NYTimes article says that most members of Congress were unaware of the Bradbury memo. Which ones were aware? What, if anything, did they do about it?

I'm betting it was at a minimum the Speaker of the House, the majority leader, and the chair and ranking member of the Intel Committees. Jay Rockefeller, Jane Harman: what about it?

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