Sunday, December 03, 2006

The laming of the duck

One of the risks of exercising too hard is that it can actually make the person exercising lame. President Bush is now finding that he has exercised his executive powers too hard. Recent judicial activity is making Bush's executive powers more and more lame.

US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor has validated that the NSA surveillance program (which includes secretly eavesdropping over US citizens on American soil) authorized by Bush is a shameful act. In ruling that the program violates US citizens' privacy and free-speech rights and illegally skirts review by the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, she wrote, "There are no hereditary kings in America, and no powers not created by the Constitution."

Even Representative Jane Harman (self-proclaimed Democrat and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee), long a supporter of the Iraq war, the USA PATRIOT Act, and the NSA spy program, is having a change of heart. Blasting the administration for refusing to provide legal opinions and authorizations for its wiretap program, interrogations policy, and detentions of accused terrorists, Harman said Friday that, "The administration has too often operated under vague legal guidelines, pursuant to secret legal opinions generated by few and vetted by almost none."

Speaking of detentions of accused terrorists, a lawsuit filed by two Brooklyn detainees hopes to hold federal law enforcement authorities responsible for their open-ended, "hold-until-cleared" policy for detainees is moving forward in the federal courts in New York. Top administration officials were denied their request to have the case dismissed. In another case, the federal government agreed last week to pay $2-million to settle a lawsuit filed by an Oregon attorney who was arrested and jailed for two weeks in 2004 after the FBI erroneously linked him to a terrorist attack in Spain.

Also last week, a Los Angeles federal judge has ruled that key portions of a presidential order blocking financial assistance to terrorist groups are unconstitutional. The judge ruled that two provisions of an executive order signed just days after the 9/11 attack are too vague because they allow the president to unilaterally designate organizations as terrorist groups and broadly prohibit association with such groups.

Fortunately for Americans' liberties, the judiciary is beginning to lame Bush's excessive executive powers. Let's hope for the sake of the principles upon which this country was founded that this trend continues.

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