FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Crumpling the Constitution

by Walt Brasch

With one word, a federal judge has described not only John Ashcroft’s handling of the Department of Justice, but also the Bush administration’s policy of citing national security as the
reason why it’s trying to hide the Constitution from
Americans.

U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar says Ashcroft’s super-secret policies and violation of basic Constitutional guidelines sounds “idiotic.”

Yaser Esam Hamdi, 21, an American citizen born in Louisiana
but captured in Afghanistan, has been confined at the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Station since April 5. The Justice Department claims that since Hamdi is a captured enemy combatant not only isn’t he entitled to legal representation but can be held indefinitely since he hasn’t been charged with any crime. “That sounds idiotic, doesn’t it?” asks Judge Doumar. Ashcroft also believes it’s the government’s right to record all lawyer-client communication; Judge Doumar, citing the Constitution and more than two centuries of American legal precedent, disagrees.

In a related case, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler will decide if the government has any Constitutional basis to keep secret the names and charges against those it currently
detains as terrorists. Ironically, the Justice Department admits that many of those it’s hiding from the public are not terrorist suspects. In numerous actions, Ashcroft and Vice-President Dick Cheney have retreated into their bunkers, arguing that the secrecy and the shredding of Constitutional guidelines are necessary for national
security. Cheney himself told the Senate leadership in
February that Bush officials would probably defy all
attempts to question them about what they knew before and
after the Sept. 11 attacks. Both Ashcroft and Cheney have
labeled dissent, even by leaders of both major political
parties, to be unpatriotic, something that should cause even
more fear in Americans than anything that happened Sept. 11.

The Bush administration’s quest for secrecy is understandable, considering it was primarily staring at headlights prior to Sept. 11. Newsweek and numerous other publications now report that the Bush administration, probably for political reasons, discounted the Clinton administration’s severe and substantial warnings about terrorist activities. Ashcroft himself opposed an FBI proposal to add more counter-terrorism agents. Numerous memos by the CIA, backed by data from foreign intelligence agencies, were shuffled into a bureaucratic limbo by the Bush administration. These are the same leaders who agreed that color-coded days was a brilliant concept are now chomping away at our civil rights.

In the first weeks after the attacks, Americans gave the government wide latitude to seek out and destroy those responsible. The people realized they may have to temporarily yield a few of their own civil rights to gain their permanent security, a reality of life but one that would have shocked and saddened the nation’s founders who wrote our keystone documents under terrors we can’t even imagine.

John Ashcroft saw the confusion after Sept. 11 as political convenience. Within two months, drafted in secret under a cloak of “national security,” Ashcroft had bullied Congress to pass the USA Patriot Act. Most of Congress now admit they didn’t read the 342-page document which butts against Constitutional protections of the First (free speech), Fourth (unreasonable searches), Fifth (right against self-incrimination), and Sixth (due process) amendments.

President Bush–in Europe telling our allies that the reason to modernize the military is to make it more modern–has cloaked himself in the fiction of national security to justify a political agenda of secrecy. His popularity rating remains over 60 percent, even though his leading political advisor joyfully proclaims that the events of Sept. 11 should help elect more Republicans in the Fall elections.

What the President and his advisors must understand, yet may not be prepared to admit, is that Americans are giving unprecedented support not because they believe the President is a brilliant war leader but because they believe in the country, and hope that solidarity and increased vigilance will be the fortress against continued attacks upon the nation.

FBI director Robert Mueller, acknowledging numerous problems in America’s intelligence-gathering and analysis, and in announcing a massive reorganization of his agency, says the FBI “has been the agency to protect the rights of others.”

As long as John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, and numerous Bush officials believe the Constitution is nothing more than a scrap of paper to be used to justify a cover-up for their own problems, then anything Mueller says is nothing more than empty rhetoric.

It is important to destroy terrorism. It’s just as important we don’t destroy the American fabric to do so.

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D. is a professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. His most recent book is Bill Clinton: The Joy of Sax. Walt has been sidelined with a nasty illness the past few weeks and is just now getting some of his old energy back. He love to hear from you and may be reached at brasch@bloomu.edu.

 

 

Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail