Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Legal beagles

The Bush administration has argued that a non-declared "war" makes him a war president and that this "state of war" -- despite its undefined nature and lack of congressional decree -- has thus granted him unitary executive power. It is by this mechanism that Bush* would begin invading countries with only a slight nod from Congress, indefinitely imprison "enemy combatants," enact secret programs of extraordinary rendition, torture, warrantless wiretapping, broad-swath telecommunications surveillance, create a network of secret CIA prisons, and, well, who knows what else.

But recent court decisions have begun to pull on the constitutional reigns of a White House that believed that it had been unbridled by declamations of war. At least, the courts are trying to pull on those reigns. But the spate of recent court decisions and the arguments that government lawyers have been using in these cases (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, NSA wiretapping, the Padilla case) are beginning to make me wonder whether the Bush administration has not so completely denuded the Department of Justice of legal competence that there might be no one left there who actually knows anything about the law. In fact, they seem to know as much about the law as George Bush does, which, as anyone might imagine, is probably pretty scant. It would seen that legal competence, as in many other federal departments, has long since left the building.

Recently, a US District Court threw out at least one indictment against Jose Padilla brought by the US Attorney General's office, saying that the government had leveled multiple charges for the same crime.
There can be no question that the government has charged a single conspiracy offense multiple times, in separate counts, when in law and in fact, only one [alleged] crime has been committed.
And that,
The danger raised by a multiplicitous indictment is present in the instant indictment.
For all intents and purposes, it appears that the DoJ simply doesn't understand the basic precepts of the Constitution, proscribing, as that document does, the condition of "double jeopardy."

In yet another ruling, a federal judge found that the Bush administration has also violated law by ignoring scientific advice and enacting new rules that would allow harmful pesitcides easier entrance to the market. Reliving a common and oft-heard refrain:
The defeated policies had allowed political appointees and bureaucrats in the federal government to make unilateral decisions that ignored or contradicted research conducted by their own scientists.
This is certainly par for the Bush administration course. Reagan appointee, Judge John Coughenour wrote that, once again, the Bush administration ignored scientific opinion in the matter:
[T]he record does not reflect that the Services' approval, which ran counter to its scientists' consensus, was based on any science-based reason. Indeed . . . they were aware that the foregoing problems with the scope of EPA's inquiry had played a part in the registration of two chemicals known to have highly toxic effects.
But the apparent disregard or disdain for law seems not to be limited to George Bush's coterie of political hacks.

Indeed, it seems that George's little brother, Jeb, and his band of mirthless vote-riggers in Florida might very well have received "advice" from Bush's team of legal beagles in the DoJ, as a 2004 voter registration law also demonstrates that the Constitution is something to be ignored rather than observed. Yet another federal judge threw out the Florida law that would levy hefty fines against third party voter registration groups for the egregious crime of submitting voter registration forms late. In fact, the fines were so severe that voter registration groups had to stop all registration activity, a result that was as intended as it was unconstitutional.

The judge found the law violated free speech and "unconstitutionally discriminates" against third party voter registration groups, which are usually citizen organisation like the League of Women Voters.
If third-party voter registration organizations permanently cease their voter registration efforts, Florida citizens will be stripped of an important means and choice of registering to vote and of associating with one another.
Naturally, the office of the Secretary of Florida Voter Suppression has said they disagree and will appeal the decision.

Perhaps this is not so much legal incompetence as it is legal disinterest. Really, who needs competence in the DoJ when legalities are believed to be irrelevant; 9/11 changed everything. But try as they might, Bush* just hasn't quite figured out away around pesky judges always citing the Constitution whenever some egregious breech of it has spurred a lawsuit. And while unconstitutional programs that are claimed to be in the interests of "national security" have had a strong leg to stand on until recently, the White House still haven't figured out how to employ that tired line in efforts to deny Americans their voting rights and to further befoul the environment at the behest of private industry. But rest assured, they're working on it.


* Here "Bush" is simply shorthand for the neo-con cabal that peppers the Bush administration and is supported by enablers like Gonzales, Rice, Hayden, etc.

2 Comments:

Anonymous hotpotatomash said...

they have not found a way to stop pesky judges from commenting but they have certainly found a way to deal with said judges -- ignore them. and this includes supreme court decisions.

and if that doesn't fly, they just get congress to change the law and apply it retroactively to erase prior illegal acts.

but this all leads to the grandaddy question of them all - just how do you stop a runaway executive who fails to follow the law or listen to the other branches?

4:30 AM  
Blogger theBhc said...

Indeed, Mash. That is the question.

You're right, of course. They haven't actually abided any of the court decisions against them. Nor do I expect they will. The NSA program is doubtless still running, because that won't stop until all avenues of appeal are trudged down ever so slowly. Gitmo prisoners are still awaiting "military tribunals," whatever the fuck that means, until pepperhead Specter give the White House the toss out pass.

Who, exactly, is supposed to enforce the executive to comply with court decisions when all such policing authority lies under the executive?

9:20 AM  

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