Even George Orwell would not have imagined George W, who keeps pushing a post-Orwellian, autocratic America in which a supreme executive can operate in secrecy, beyond the reach of law. We’ve had illegal domestic spying, falsified intelligence, presidential annulment of laws, torture, unconstitutional defiance of congressional authority… and more. Now comes news of another twist from the Bush-Cheney bag of tricks: secret law.
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This disclosure came at a Senate hearing on the use of clandestine legal opinions by the Justice Department to justify waterboarding and other torture methods employed by the CIA. At the April 30th hearing, an administration spokesman magnanimously agreed to share certain parts of selected secret opinions with some members of Congress. It wasn’t much of a concession to Congress’s constitutional oversight responsibility, but during the hearing, the spokesman suddenly asserted that Bush has the inherent power to ignore or alter existing executive orders issued either by him or previous presidents. Here’s the kicker: the Bushites claim they can do this without telling anyone!
Executive orders have the full force of law, and unilaterally altering them behind the White House curtain means the published law is not what it says it is. An astonished Sen. Russ Feingold pointed out that “it is a basic tenet of democracy that the people have a right to know the law.” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse was more scathing, saying that such a claim of executive power turns our national lawbooks “into a screen of falsehoods behind whose phony regulations lawless programs can operate in secret.”
It’s time for Congress to hold these outlaws accountable for their Orwellian, unAmrican power grabs. Congress should not merely express outrage – but bring the perpetrators to trial.
“Justice Dept. Will Share Interrogation Opinions, The New York Times, May 1, 2008