Sunday, September 11, 2005

Past the Fetish of Secrecy

The ACLU may not always do what many of us would like but hey that is the problem with civil liberties defense isn't it? As Nat Hentoff would remind us, civil liberties applies to everyone... regardless of whether or not we agree with them.

But the American Civil Liberties Union has made public a previously Bush misadministration super duper secret legal memo held by the Department of Justice as a result of a court order. Because this sorry "what-me-worry" misadministration has taken secrecy to a strange fetish level. Judge Roberts (no relation to Mr. Roberts) wrote a few memos that may shed light on his ideas, gotta hide it, can't find it... no,no... won't release it. John "Mr. Kill-them-with- Kindness" Bolton wrote a few things that might make us cringe... nope, can't release it.

It is strange really. The neocons write such noxious things... Coulter wants liberals to lose civil liberties, Michael Savage believes that if you are not a conservative you have a severe mental illness, Rush Limbaugh... well, other than loving Oxy-Conty, who knows what he really believes, eh?

But the mislabeled Department of Justice has repeatedly invoked the memo to justify a radical shift in immigration enforcement policy that has generated considerable controversy among state and local police, immigrant advocates, and others, but refused to release it until ordered to by a federal Court of Appeals.

Read the ACLU's take on the memo:

Now that we've finally seen this memo, we know for a fact that it fails miserably to rationalize the Department's unwise and unlawful attempt to saddle local police with a federal immigration enforcement mission," said Omar Jadwat, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.

The federal government's longstanding policy used to be that state and local police should not, and legally could not (absent special circumstances), attempt to enforce the non-criminal provisions of the immigration laws. Suddenly, in 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the federal government was now asking state and local police to make certain civil immigration arrests. He pointed to a new Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo as legal justification.

Ashcroft's announcement caused immediate alarm in many quarters. Immigrant advocates and many law enforcement officials believe that state and local police should not engage in immigration enforcement because immigrants will be afraid to report crime or interact with the police. Further, immigration enforcement will take police resources away from important public-safety missions; state and local police, who lack specialized training, will fail to properly evaluate whether individuals are in compliance with the highly technical immigration laws, and increased racial profiling, discrimination and costly litigation will result.

Individuals interested in the issue were also puzzled because OLC memos from 1989 and 1996 had reached the opposite conclusion to the one cited by Ashcroft in 2002.

Law enforcement agencies, members of Congress and immigrant advocates promptly asked to see the new OLC memo after its existence was made public. The Department of Justice refused repeated requests to release the memo prompting the ACLU and eight other organizations to file a suit under the Freedom of Information Act, arguing that they were entitled to view the document. A federal district court agreed, ordering disclosure of the memo in a slightly redacted form. The government resisted and appealed the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Finally, after the Second Circuit affirmed the district court, and some three years after plaintiffs and others first requested the memo, the government released it.

Yeah, that's the Bush misadministration we have all come to love despise: Cavalier We-do-what-we-want-to-do international AND domestic policy. Maybe with steeply declining poll numbers, Americans are finally starting to remember what real leadership looks like and Bush, his croonies, and the various wings of government that are bearing his incompentent stamp, are not it.

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