Saturday, July 26, 2008

Congressional Hearings on Executive Power: To Impeach or Not to Impeach

Yesterday I tuned in and out of the House Judiciary Hearing on the limitation of executive power. Summary: long, partisan, and unproductive. Bush has clearly flouted many of our constitutional laws, continues to circumvent congress on a number of national security issues, but so far as I can tell he has not committed an impeachable offense.

Bruce Fein (who was perhaps the most impassioned witness at the hearing) did a diavlog with Firedoglake blogger Jane Hamsher on recently where he overviews the President et al's crimes and why they should be impeached. Fein explains why the war on terror does not or at least should not classify as a true war by way of analogy, shares his hypothesis as to why the American public doesn't care, and proposes that we return to a constitutional government.

Also Rush Holt had a piece over at TPM cafe, though it seemed to gloss over much of the legal controversies.

Much of the news and discussion about this surveillance legislation has to do with immunity from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that may have followed the President's request and overstepped the law. Generally, I believe that people and corporations should be held responsible for their actions. More important, though, is the other part of this legislation that would set the law for surveillance in the future.

Any change to FISA must strengthen our ability to gather reliable, verifiable, and actionable intelligence on real enemies versus imagined or assumed enemies. I am not aware of any historical examples where a "fishing expedition" approach to intelligence collection has made our country safer. To the contrary, fishing expeditions are sloppy intelligence. There is an age-old principle used to avoid imagining someone is an enemy or a danger to society. The people who would seize persons, papers, and communications are not the same people who determine that the target should be suspect. A court considers the particular facts and then issues a particular search warrant. Neither police, nor intelligence agents should decide who is suspect. It is an important principle that is part of what makes the United States of America what it is: the government does not regard any American with suspicion first. Only after a due process is a person treated with suspicion. No individual, no class, no religion, no immigrant is lesser in the eyes of the government.

One of the commenters had a pretty succinct post below the article where he/she writes:

With respect, any bill that is debated that includes retroactive immunity for telecoms make a mockery of our laws, our Constitution and our values and so everything else you have to say is really academic and serves only as a distraction. That is the issue and it is an easy call. I am horrified and outraged that the bill is even being allowed on the floor of the house for one minute let alone being debated! It is an abomination, a sellout, and yet another examply of the pathetic cowardice of the Democratic Party at a moment that demands courage.

We, the people, understand quite clearly that this administration (with Democrats aiding and abetting at every step of the way) has trampled our Constitution and used "fighting terror" as the cover story and excuse for it. Time and again have Democrats capitulated in the face of the intimidation and lies of that pack of criminals running the White House and the Republican Party. Democrats did so when authorizing the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq which is itself a Crime Against Peace--the worst of all war crimes! Democrats have done so repeatedly during the reign of terror presided over by Bush and his henchmen.

But the sad truth is that at almost every turn, the Democrats could have stood in the way of tyranny and the destruction of our most cherished Constitution. Frankly, I don't give a damn about the rest of the details of the bill you and your colleagues will debate tomorrow. If it contains retroactive immunity for telecoms in any form whatsoever it is an affront to respect for the laws and Constitution of the United States and no Democrat with any spine at all should be caught dead supporting it. We Democrats are supposed to believe in the rule of law! Giving the wealthy, powerful corporations yet another way to avoid responsibility for their criminal actions is reprehensible to say the least.

You make some good points here, but it is all beside the point if once again the Democrats demonstrate how weak and craven and calculating they are. I am so disgusted with Pelosi, Hoyer, Reid and Rockefeller that I can't even put into words how I loathe them and their failure to stand up to that criminal tyrant Bush!

This is not a close call Congressman. You don't need to read what the "compromise" language is in the bill. The bill is a total and complete capitulation. It is a disgrace! Don't dance on this: oppose it. It is the right thing to do for America. If you or any Democrat votes for this bill it will constitute an open and willing failure to uphold your oath to defend the laws and Constitution of the United States.


No comments: