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Sunday, January 21, 2007

the fifty millionth smoking gun, or, the necessity of outrage

The lawlessness of the executive branch under George W. Bush is not news, nor is it new to this blog. To catalogue their many offenses and accumulate the various evidences quickly becomes redundant. Yet it is necessary to do so. No one among us should take Bush's lawless revolution for granted. In times like these when government becomes lawless, if we lose the capacity for outrage, the success of the tyrants will become that much more likely and will arrive that much sooner.

And so I offer you, dear Reader, the fifty millionth smoking gun, further proof that ours is a government not of laws but of men. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 18, 2007 and had the following exchange with Senator Arlen Specter:

GONZALES: The fact that the Constitution -- again, there is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution. There's a prohibition against taking it away. But it's never been the case. I'm not aware of a Supreme...

SPECTER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's an invasion or rebellion?

GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas. Doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except...

SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.

[All ellipses appear in the original transcript available through Lexis-Nexis.]

There is no need for conspiracy theories in the Bush era. All that they do they do openly and brazenly. Here we have the chief law enforcement officer of the United States claiming that U.S. citizens do not have a constitutional right to habeas corpus! (Yes, use the exclamation point when saying that.)

Gonzales later added:
GONZALES: I was just simply making an observation that there isn't an expressed grant. My understanding is that in the debate during the framing of the Constitution there was discussion as to whether or not there should be an expressed grant, and a decision was made not to do so. But what you see in the language is a compromise. I think the fact that in 1789, the Judiciary Act, that they passed statutory habeas for the first time, may reflect -- maybe -- I don't want to say a concern, but why pass a statutory right so soon after the Constitution? Perhaps, because it wasn't express grant of habeas.

Establishing an initial maybe-perhaps rhetorical beachhead is the very same strategy that Samuel Alito mapped out in the 1980's at the Justice Department for turning the previously symbolic curio of the presidential signing statement into an executive power grab. (See my blog entry for December 14, 2006 for Alito's memorandum.) Today they call habeas corpus a maybe-perhaps compromise; tomorrow they will be locking us up for sneering at them.

On a final note of outrage, for now, there would be no better way to end this entry than to quote this lovely exchange between Gonzales and Senator Patrick Leahy, the committee chairman. It speaks for itself:

LEAHY: We find that Halliburton gives water with E. coli. in it to our troops. I mean, I should -- the press was able to find that out. We find that enormous number of weapons we've sent over there have been sold on the black market. There should be some ability to trace some of this.

GONZALES: Well, sure there is. But I mean, can you make a case? I mean, that's the thing. We do operate under a system of laws...

Stay angry, people! At times like these, anger is how you know you still have a conscience and a will to fight. Don't let the tyrants win.

Tune in again soon for the fifty million and first smoking gun.


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