"My personal opinion is it was a shameful act, for someone to disclose this very important program in time of war."
"The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."
Leading The Princezz to respond:
You're right, Mr. President. It is our fault for demanding transparency of government in a democratic society, not your fault for pulling old Cold War CIA/KGB wire-tapping tricks on your own people. So I guess if another terrorist attack happens (god forbid!) that will be our fault, too, for wanting some sort of honesty from our own elected government officials, not your fault for still not having your act together after five years in office.
In the same vein, Katherine has a must-read post at Obsidian Wings.
Look. We have a President here who is making a claim of unlimited power, for the duration of a war that may never end. Oh, he says it's limited by the country's laws, but they've got a crack legal team that reliably interprets the laws to say that the President gets to do whatever he wants. It amounts to the same thing.
I am not exaggerating. I am really and truly not.
September 11 started the war. When will it end? Maybe never. Where is the battlefield? The entire world, including the United States. Who is an enemy combatant? Anyone the President says is an enemy combatant, including a U.S. citizen--no need for a charge, no need for a trial, no need for access to a lawyer. What if they're found not to be an enemy combatant? We can keep them in prison anyway, and we don't have to tell their families they're alive or their lawyers that they were cleared. What can you do to an enemy combatant? Anything you want. Detain him forever, for the rest of his life, because this is a war like any other and we have always been able to detain POWs for the duration of the war. But you don't need to follow the Geneva Conventions, because this is a war like no other in our history. And oh yes--if the President decides that we need to torture a prisoner for the war effort, it's unconstitutional for Congress to stop him. They took that position in an official memo, and they have not backed down from it. They have said it was "unnecessary" but they have never backed down from it.
They are not only entitled to do these things to people; they are entitled to do them in secret. When Congress asks for information about them, they can just ignore it. And they are entitled to actively deceive the public about all this.
That's the power they claim. At what point are we going to take that claim seriously?
What Katherine is saying is important. This isn't some hyperbolic claim about what will happen if we accept certain administration programs. This is, effectively, how the Bush administration describes its own position now. They claim all these rights and powers, and resist any attempts at effective congressional or public oversight.
Katherine and Matt Yglesias both cite to this question at a recent White House Press Conference:
I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?
These our questions we need to start asking. Not as a "gotcha" thing, but as a serious issue in determining what powers are necessary for this war, how they will be limited, how they will be established, and how they will be reviewed. If it is true that this war is perpetual and may not have a clear ending, then we need to account for that--the worst thing for America to do would be to give carte blanche to the Executive for what may amount to eternity. I'm not saying the Bush administration is plotting to turn America into a fascist dictatorship. I'm saying that we need to plan for the future and address these concerns as a nation, openly, fairly, through our democratic processes.
And for arguing that the type of disclosure necessary to jump start this discussion is "helping the enemy", shame on you, Mr. President. If you weren't breaking the law, then maybe we could have avoided this unpleasantness. As it stands, its long since past the point where an executive "trust me" will suffice as a bulwark against the erosion of our constitutional freedoms.
UPDATE: Definitely, definitely, see Steve Vladeck.