Another Excellent article from the guys at Slate. It really outlines how the war on terror has in reality been more about a grab for power than actually stoping terror. .
Willing to give the benefit of the doubt, I once believed the common thread here was presidential blindness—an extreme executive-branch myopia that leads the president to believe that these futile little measures are somehow integral to combating terrorism. That this is some piece of self-delusion that precludes Bush and his advisers from recognizing that Padilla is just a chump and Guantanamo merely a holding pen for a jumble of innocent and half-guilty wretches.
But it has finally become clear that the goal of these foolish efforts isn't really to win the war against terrorism; indeed, nothing about Padilla,
Two scrupulously reported pieces on the Padilla case are illuminating. On of National Public Radio interviewed Mark Corallo, spokesman for then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, about the behind-the-scenes decision-making in the Padilla case—a case that's lolled through the federal courts for years. According to Totenberg, when the Supreme Court sent Padilla's case back to the lower federal courts on technical grounds in 2004, the Bush administration's sole concern was preserving its constitutional claim that it could hold citizens as enemy combatants. "Justice Department officials warned that if the case went back to the Supreme Court, the administration would almost certainly lose," she reports, which is why Padilla was hauled back to the lower courts. Her sources further confirmed that "key players in the Defense Department and Vice President Cheney's office insisted that the power to detain Americans as enemy combatants had to be preserved."
excellent New York Times story on Padilla on Jan. 4 makes the same point: He was moved from military custody to criminal court only as "a legal maneuver that kept the issue of his detention without charges out of the Supreme Court." So this is why the White House yanked Padilla from the brig to the high court to the federal courts and back to a
This need to preserve newly won legal ground also explains the continued operation of the detention center at
The endgame in the war on terror isn't holding the line against terrorists. It's holding the line on hard-fought claims to absolutely limitless presidential authority.
Enter these signing statements. The most recent of the all-but-meaningless postscripts Bush tacks onto legislation gives him the power to "authorize a search of mail in an emergency" to ''protect human life and safety" and "for foreign intelligence collection." There is some debate about whether the president has that power already, but it misses the point. The purpose of these signing statements is simply to plant a flag on the moon—one more way for the president to stake out the furthest corners in his field of constitutional dreams.
Last spring, The New Yorker profiled David Addington, Vice President Richard Cheney's chief of staff and legal adviser. Addington's worldview in brief: A single-minded devotion to something called the New Paradigm, a constitutional theory of virtually limitless executive power, wherein "the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it," Mayer describes.
Insiders in the Bush administration told Mayer that Addington and Cheney had been "laying the groundwork" for a vast expansion of presidential power long before 9/11. In 2002, the vice president that the presidency was "weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last 30 to 35 years." Rebuilding that presidency has been their sole goal for decades.
The image of Addington scrutinizing "every bill before President Bush signs it, searching for any language that might impinge on Presidential power," as Mayer puts it, can be amusing—like the mother of the bride obsessing over a tricky seating chart. But this zeal to restore an all-powerful presidency traps the Bush administration in its own worst legal sinkholes. This newfound authority—to maintain a disastrous
In a heartbreaking this week, published in the Los Angeles Times, prisoner Jumah Al Dossari writes: "The purpose of
A version of this piece appeared in the Washington Post .