Location: United States

Monday, December 26, 2005

Alito the Apologist

The news is that George Bush wants to start 2006 with a victory - namely:

Bush will be after the Senate to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court in January.

Well, if Bush wants a victory, perhaps he should pick a better nominee.

Alito's ethics are questionable. So is his insistence that wiretaps don't need judicial oversight.

There is simply no place in American politics for someone who believes that they (or anyone else) should have authority, but not accountability. The US Constitution does not give any hint of giving governmental officials special standing above the law.

The 1984 wiretapping memo involved a lawsuit filed against Nixon administration attorney general John N. Mitchell, who in 1970 had ordered wiretaps of antiwar activists. The FBI suspected the activists of plotting to blow up Washington utility tunnels and kidnap Henry A. Kissinger, then President Richard M. Nixon's national security adviser. The case had been in the courts for years, and it fell to Alito to prepare a memo on whether the government should ask the Supreme Court to review an adverse lower court decision.

Harry S. Truman reportedly kept a sign that read "The Buck Stops Here" on his desk. We've fallen a long way since that time.

George W. Bush claims:

"As president and commander in chief," Mr. Bush said at a news conference on Monday, "I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article II of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it."

No one - well, no one outside of the White House - is fooled.

Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University, said the administration was reading the authorization too broadly. "No fair-minded person," he said, "can read an authorization to use military force as authority to go off and do domestic spying."


Daniel J. Solove, a law professor at George Washington University, asked: "If the authorization of military force empowered the president to do something as far removed from fighting a war as this, does it authorize the president to violate any conceivable law to fight terrorism?"


The constitutional powers granted to the president, Professor Chemerinsky countered, do not authorize him to conduct domestic spying. "If that were true, why would there have to be a FISA court at all?" Professor Chemerinsky asked.

The Constitution set up an independent judiciary to help hold in check Presidential and Congressional power. Alito looks dead set to erase that sacred duty. Too many times in the past, our Courts have dobbed their head demurrely as civil rights were trampled. Yes, we survived. However, heaping shame upon shame is no way to run a country.


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