Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Will Bush himself be charged?

Now that the new Obama Justice Department appears intent on releasing previously secret documents that explain how Bush administration officials got to the point of abrogating constitutional rights in their reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it seems apparent that many of them are going to face criminal charges. Monday's release of secret Bush administration memorandums justifying ignoring the Bill of Rights to advance the battle against terrorism was, apparently, just the beginning. On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced it was considering the release of other secret legal opinions, including one authorizing the use of specific interrogation techniques banned by treaty and another authorizing warrantless wiretaps, the New York Times reported. Justice Department officials, to spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity, said the release of the documents was accelerated because they had been subpoenaed in a lawsuit filed by Jose Padilla, a Chicago resident held for years as an enemy combatant. Padilla filed the suit against John Yoo, the former Bush administration lawyer who wrote legal opinions justifying policies authorizing detention without trial and harsh interrogation techniques. The Yoo opinions were repudiated by the administration shortly before Bush left office in January. "These memos appear to have given the Bush administration a legal blank check to trample on Americans’ civil rights,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Times said. Whitehouse's committee plans a hearing Wednesday on creating an investigatory commission. The committee chairman, Pat Leahy of Vermont has already called for a panel that could grant immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan also has proposed legislation setting up a commission but without offering immunity. But if these panels focus only on low-level officials who did what they were ordered to do, such an exercise will be pointless. What U.S. citizens need to know is whether the former vice president, Dick Cheney, and the then-president, George W. Bush, were responsible for the breakdown of law and order at the top of the executive branch.

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