I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A couple of quick points

By Hume's Ghost

1) In addition to what Glenn said below about the growing pushback against the Executive's grab at expanded powers, there are a couple of other stories in the news that are fairly significant in this regard.

First, the Senate Judiciary Committee has hinted that it will defend journalists from prosecution for violation of espionage laws. The AP reports that

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave the Bush administration a new lashing Tuesday over its use of executive power, citing the FBI's posthumous probe of columnist Jack Anderson and questioning the notion that espionage laws might allow the prosecution of journalists who publish classified information.

"It's highly doubtful in my mind that that was ever the intent of Congress," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said.

The World War I-era espionage laws, countered Justice Department criminal division chief Matthew Friedrich, "do not exempt any class of professionals, including reporters, from their reach."

"I believe that's an invitation to Congress to legislate on the subject," replied Specter, R-Pa. "Clearly, the ball is in our court."

Secondly, the board of governors for the American Bar Association, which in Febuary had denounced the NSA surveillance as illegal, voted unanimously earlier this week to form an "all-star legal panel with a number of members from both political parties" in order to "to evaluate Bush's assertions that he has the power to ignore laws that conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution. " The ABA's decision was motivated by The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage, who first covered the President's extensive use of signing statements.

2) There's an interesting discussion going on over at Michael Berube's blog regarding How Would A Patriot Act?, which echoes some of the debate that has occurred here in regards whether or not "patriotism" is a virtue. Drawing a distinction between civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism, Berube writes

What Greenwald offers here is a mode of nationalism—of patriotism—that consists of principled opposition to the unlimited expansion of executive power by the Bush/Cheney regime. It’s a mode of nationalism that might, and that should, be more popular than it is.
And then in this follow-up post Berube responds to some critical comments.

3) I've heard a few people comment that they would like to learn more about the ideas of the Founders, but find their work, such as The Federalist, a bit inaccessible. If you count yourself among this crowd, then you might enjoy reading Pulitzer Prize winning historian Gary Wills' Explaining America: The Federalist. I just picked up a copy of this, myself, yesterday and have been reading through it. Wills offers a compact and concise study of the essays in prose that is easy to understand, providing context along the way as to what exactly informed the thoughts of Madison and Hamilton (and Jay to a lesser extent.) Of course, I'm partial to the book since Wills frames each chapter with a quote from the political philosophy of David Hume.

UPDATE: Blogger has been down most of today, making it difficult (read: impossible) to put together a decent post, so here are a few more quick points for consideration.

4) A reader sent me a link to this radio interview Glenn gave a few days ago, where he talks about the book and about blogging.

5) Dave Neiwert wrote a post yesterday about an article Craig Unger has written for Vanity Fair which makes the case that the Niger documents were part of a psy-ops war targeted at the American public, where Mr. Neiwert concludes that it's up to the blogosphere to discuss this because the mainstream media seems incapable of deviating from the idea that the Bush administration was anything but the victims of good intentions and bad intelligence.

At this point, the evidence that U.S. citizens were victims of a massive campaign of deception to sell a war with Iraq is incontrovertible ( for those who are dubious of this claim, I plan on making this case in a post at some point this week.) Neiwert makes a key point about the threat that the infiltration of fake news represents to democracy.

The role of the media in this manipulation cannot be understated. The abdication of the media's role as an independent watchdog and its whole subsumation as a propaganda organ bodes ill for any democracy, because a well-informed public is vital to its functioning.

6) Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars links to a statement from Judge Jones, who presided over the Dover intelligent design case, about the necessity of an independent judiciary, and about how the demonization of judges is dangerous not only to judges (Judge Jones had to be placed under marshal protection after the Dover decision), but to our entire system of government.

7) As noted by ej in the comments, Senator Specter has once again been backed down by the administration.

Arlen Specter said that after discussions with the Bush administration and Senate Intelligence Committee colleagues who had been more fully briefed on the National Security Agency program, he was "prepared to defer on a temporary basis" requiring representatives from AT&T, Verizon Communications and BellSouth to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he leads....

Specter said he was willing to suspend the inquiry largely because Vice President Dick Cheney had provided assurances that the White House would be more receptive to pending legislation--including a proposal chiefly backed by Specter himself--that would send the existing NSA program and all future surveillance plans to a special court for review of their constitutionality.
Is it possible that Senator Specter is this naive? The assurance of the law-breaking White House that has issued 750 proclamations that it is not bound by legislation passed by Congress that it will follow future legislation is good enough for the supposedly troubled by the NSA issue Specter to suspend an inquiry? The man is made out of jello.

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