Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cheney: Deploy the U.S. Military Against U.S. Citizens on U.S. Soil (update below)

A new tale from the Bush administration, as chilling as it is unsurprising. The New York Times reports today that
"Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with al Qaeda, according to former administration officials."
Such an operation would, of course, be completely illegal. Those who worked on the report seemed to realize the significance of it:
"A decision to dispatch troops into the streets to make arrests has few precedents in American history, as both the Constitution and subsequent laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property."
The debate inside the administration grew out of Bush's position that he had the fascistic ability to operate entirely outside of constitutional and legal restraints, as documented in memos released earlier this year.

Among those urging Bush to use the military was Vice President Dick Cheney. In the Times' reconstruction of the debate, the Justice Department was concerned that it may have insufficient evidence to successfully prosecute a legal case against the suspects, so Cheney advocated sending in the military, on the grounds that "the administration would need a lower threshold of evidence to declare them enemy combatants and keep them in military custody." This is the Times obfuscating the fact that the "enemy combatant" designation invented by the Bush administration required no evidence and wasn't subject to any oversight. As those in the administration asserted the power, they could so designate anyone they wanted and hold them forever. That Cheney explicitly argued for this approach based on a concern that there may not be enough evidence to show that the individuals in question were guilty of anything points directly to why this dictatorial "power" was explicitly banned by the Constitution and U.S. law in the first place.

The plan to use the military never went forward; Bush opted to send in the FBI and all of the suspects in the case eventually pleaded guilty. From the Times recounting of the debate, the decision to use the FBI was made because, on the one hand, the Justice Department, which considered such matters their turf, resented and argued against encroachment into it and, on the other, some officials thought it would be bad public relations to send tanks into an American suburb. There seems to have been no concern at all with the matter of constitutionality or legality. If it even came up, no one who described the debate to the Times seems to have mentioned it.

These days, Cheney is the loudest voice crowing about how Obama's abandonment of Bush policies would put the country at risk but as this revelation demonstrates yet again, Cheney and his ilk are a far greater threat to the U.S. than al Qaida could ever be.


UPDATE -- Glenn Greenwald is all over this story, and, as usual, demonstrates why he's the best political blogger on the internet:

"All of this underscores why it is so important to vigorously oppose the efforts of the Obama administration (a) to continue many of the radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism programs and even to implement new ones (preventive detention, military commissions, extreme secrecy policies, warrantless surveillance, denial of habeas corpus) and (b) to endorse the core Orwellian premise that enables all of that (i.e., the 'battlefield' is anywhere and everywhere; the battle against Terrorism is a 'War' like the Civil War or World War II and justifies the same powers)... It's the nature of governments that powers of this type, once vested, rarely remain confined to their original purpose. They inevitably and invariably expand far beyond that. Powers that are endowed to address a limited and supposedly temporary circumstance almost always endure for years if not decades... Worse still, if--after eight years of Yoo memos and theories of presidential omnipotence and denial of habeas corpus--a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress implements his own kinder, gentler version of such programs, then they will cease to be a twisted aberration from the post-9/11 Bush era and will instead become the new bipartisan, American consensus approach to justice. We'll have a national (rather than right-wing) endorsement of the 'principle' that national security threats justify denial of the most basic rights when it comes to detention and imprisonment."

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