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How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok Paperback – May 15, 2006
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About the Author
Glenn Greenwald is a Constitutional law attorney, and author of the political blog, "Unclaimed Territory." Greenwald has written for American Conservative magazine and appeared on a variety of television and radio programs, including C-Span's "Washington Journal," Air America's "Majority Report" and Public Radio International's "To the Point." His reporting and analysis have been credited in The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Salon, Slate and a variety of other print and online publications.
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Starting with a brief background on the FISA law, Greenwald explains how it came about, and how it has worked in a world of a Soviet threat through the present, until this president decided to bypass the law while telling Americans that he was abiding by it. He illustrates how he and Gonzalez were pedaling a pattern of deceit daily.
Next, there had to be some justification for such unilateral action. Enter, John Yoo, assistant attorney general in the Justice's Department's Office of Legal Counsel which "produces legal memoranda that, upon issuance, become the official position of the Justice Department and the entire executive branch." Yoo, a firm believer in the power of the president, wrote exactly what the White House wanted to read. According to Yoo-know-who, the president had the power to do whatever he wanted to do, without the consultation of congress or constraint by court. All this for the security of the United States. In other words, the President of the United States was now above the law, and the checks and balances were no longer in place with an executive that now assumed power over the other two. Bush was king, accountable to no one for his decisions or his actions.
Armed with a justification, Bush wasted no time in exercising it. He arrested American citizens by signing secret executive orders that deprived them of liberty, charges, counsel, trial, and even communication. He ruled that he could hold them indefinitely. He took it up a notch by doing this to an American citizen, in particular, Jose Padilla who was not only an American citizen arrested on American soil, but on "evidence" obtained by torture.
So important was torture to his policy that he threatened to veto an anti-torture bill introduced by Senator John McCain (R) of Arizona. When it passed overwhelmingly in the both houses of congress, the president went to Plan B where he added a signing statement that he would only apply the ban on torture in a manner consistent with his constitutional authority. With John Yoo telling him, his power as president could not be challenged, he could disregard the will of congress and the bill in its entirety. The bill specifically passed to control his use of torture was the same bill he declared he could ignore.
When the liberal and the widely denigrated New York Times exposed Bush's illegal eavesdropping AFTER the presidential election which was several months after the NY Times first learned about it, the administration defended its actions stating that the president's powers included "the right to use war powers against Americans on US soil," and "the right to use them even if Congress makes it a crime to do so, or the courts rule that doing so is illegal." How's that for being above the law?
And this is what began to generate a conservative backlash from those who were his ardent supporters. The rabidly supportive Supreme Court judge Antonin Scalia eviscerated the administration in an opinion on executive excesses. Other well-known conservatives such as congressman Bob Barr (R) of Georgia and George Will, journalist, have spoken out against the chief executive's flounting of the law and his disregard of our constitutional rights. Faced with growing opposition, Messrs. Bush and Cheney moved to Plan C.
While most of our famous leaders have instilled in us confidence and fearlessness, Bush and Cheney have gone in the opposite direction. Instead of telling us that terrorism is not our greatest threat, is not so great as being destroyed by the British empire before the nation can be born, by Naziism and imperialism, or by nuclear annihilation in a Cold War, we must remain in mortal fear (or terror) of terrorism, and put our trust in the wisdom and knowledge Big Brother Bush as the safest course for the American people. "Invoking the threat of terrorism and the president's proclaimed commitment to `protect' us from those threats in the administration's sole and all-purpose defense of its conduct." In addition to the fear tactic, Bush and Cheney accused their critics of "actually wanting to help the terrorists attack America." (Where have we heard that before?!) "The tacit assumption is that one can only oppose terrorism by endorsing whatever the administration wants."
Adding emphasis to this administration tactic, the author also quotes Senator Cornyn (R) of Texas, former judge who has doubled as dupe and dope for George Bush, and who is also known for more than one controversial and revealing gaffe when he added, "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead." Senator Pat Roberts (R) of Kansas has also said about the same thing. Greenwald allows the reader to connect the dots between these statements and that of Patrick Henry's famous, "Give me liberty or give me death!"
When Senator Rockefeller (D) of West Virginia attempted to initiate an investigation of Bush's warrantless eavesdropping early in 2006, the administration that always insisted it had nothing to hide and welcomed any investigation went into overdrive to quash it. In this they succeeded. Even though they threatened to prosecute the paper and its journalists, The NY Times ran the story that Rockefeller attempted to investigate and the government's reaction, but again, the story broke after the national election.
Greenwald asks us to put terrorism in perspective, that the United States has faced far greater threats in our history without sacrificing liberty for security, that "excess loyalty to an individual or party is the very antithesis of patriotism, as it places fealty to that individual or party over allegiance to the country, its interests, and its values."
This is review number 137 for me. It is also my longest because I was so taken with the message of this book. As the author emphasizes, it is our Bill of Rights that is our most cherished ideal. It is more powerful than the fear of terrorism, more important than being conservative or liberal or being a supporter or detractor of Bush and Cheney. No one is more important than our constitution. That document and the Federalist Papers are filled with that belief of those who wrote them, those who believed that just as people must be held to account for their actions, so should their magistrates.
We the people, not a president, are the stewards of our constitution and our legacy. It is up to us to claim it, protect it, and cherish it above any other. That is what this book explains, and that is why I recommend it highly. Please read this and "The Genius of Impeachment" by John Nichols and "Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush" by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
These are short books with powerful messages. They are about our responsibility as citizens, what being a patriot really means.
We owe this to ourselves.
One chapter title, "Be Very Afraid," has an effective double meaning: Greenwald explains how hysterical fear-mongering is crucial to the current administration's tactics, but he also explains what we REALLY have to fear. That is, Greenwald effectively warns us that our current president has gradually set himself up as a monarch-like leader who thinks he can act entirely on his own discretion, no matter what The People (let alone the Senate and Congress) think. That's about as un-American as you can get, given that our country's founders were motivated by precisely such abusive overreach by another leader named George.
Greenwald draws effectively on many historical precedents, and on accounts of very recent events. As a constitutional lawyer, he has the authority and the eloquence to warn Americans convincingly that the way of life they and their ancestors have taken for granted for over two centuries is in severe jeopardy. Americans should all listen, and then tell others.
This is dangerous stuff, and Greenwald does an excellent job of laying out before the reader how exactly the administration is doing this, I can only encourage all persons of liberal, moderate, or non-authoritarian conservative bents to read this book. The one criticism I have would be that there are no footnotes, but all of these items have been reported by major media at one point or another, and are easily uncovered with a simple google search.
While Greenwald barely mentions impeachment in this book, the implication is clear - this President has openly admitted committing what amount to high crimes and misdemeanors.
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The title is a rhetorical question while comparing the Bush violations of the Constitution versus what the Founding...Read more