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

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail