Thursday, December 23, 2004

Give a Moron Unlimited Power and What Do You Get?

War, of course. Two weeks after the attacks on September 11, 2001, Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo told the White House that Preznit Bush had unlimited authority to wage war in response to the attacks. Here is the concluding paragraph:

In light of the text, plan, and history of the Constitution, its interpretation by both past Administrations and the courts, the longstanding practice of the executive branch, and the express affirmation of the President's constitutional authorities by Congress, we think it beyond question that the President has the plenary constitutional power to take such military actions as he deems necessary and appropriate to respond to the terrorist attacks upon the United States on September 11, 2001. Force can be used both to retaliate for those attacks, and to prevent and deter future assaults on the Nation. Military actions need not be limited to those individuals, groups, or states that participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: the Constitution vests the President with the power to strike terrorist groups or organizations that cannot be demonstrably linked to the September 11 incidents, but that, nonetheless, pose a similar threat to the security of the United States and the lives of its people, whether at home or overseas. (32) In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make.

Don't miss the text in the footnote:

We of course understand that terrorist organizations and their state sponsors operate by secrecy and concealment, and that it is correspondingly difficult to establish, by the standards of criminal law or even lower legal standards, that particular individuals or groups have been or may be implicated in attacks on the United States. Moreover, even when evidence sufficient to establish involvement is available to the President, it may be impossible for him to disclose that evidence without compromising classified methods and sources, and so damaging the security of the United States. See, e.g., Chicago & Southern Air Lines, Inc, 333 U.S. at 111 ("The President . . . has available intelligence services whose reports are not and ought not to be published to the world."); see also Ruth Wedgwood, Responding to Terrorism: The Strikes Against Bin Laden, 24 Yale J. Int'l L. 559, 568-74 (1999) (analyzing difficulties of establishing and publicizing evidence of causation of terrorist incidents). But we do not think that the difficulty or impossibility of establishing proof to a criminal law standard (or of making evidence public) bars the President from taking such military measures as, in his best judgment, he thinks necessary or appropriate to defend the United States from terrorist attacks. In the exercise of his plenary power to use military force, the President's decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable.

The story here could be the fact that the document was published on the Office of Legal Counsel website in such a way that it didn't draw much attention. Newsweek reported:

But its contents—including the conclusion that Bush could order attacks against countries unrelated to the 9/11 attacks—were not publicly available until late this week when, with no notice to the public or the news media, the memo was posted on an obscure portion of the Web site of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. (There is nothing on the site calling attention to the memo. It is was simply added to a list of previously published memos posted for the calendar year 2001.)

What I believe is important is that this document goes right to the top, to Alberto
Gonzalez's chief deputy. This memo basically states that what Congress says doesn't matter; the President's powers are basically absolute. Soon thereafter the same hooligans advised the President about a definition of torture that would make Bill Clinton's defintion of the word "is" look amateurish.

Installment 1 on why Alberto Gonzalez should not be Attorney General.

No comments: