Published on Monday, July 3, 2006 by the Washington Olympian (Olympia, Washington)
Hold President Bush Accountable
How many times does President Bush think the American people will fall for the administration's hypocritical and Orwellian fantasies about needing to trample on the Constitution in a time of endless war?
Now the president and his seeming co-president, Dick Cheney, are criticizing The New York Times for leaking classified information exposing one more apparent abuse of power. This from the pair that found nothing wrong with exposing the identity of a CIA agent and even selectively and secretly declassifying information to go after a political enemy.
Their hypocrisy is mind-boggling.
The Times offense this time was to reveal that the administration was tapping into private financial transactions. The administration says it is all very legal and that Congress has been consulted.
As Ronald Reagan used to say, "trust but verify."
Unfortunately, the neoconservative gang that has a stranglehold on the Bush administration has proven time and time again that it isn't trustworthy. And it just can't be bothered with the niceties of verification through constitutional checks and balances.
To believe the administration this time, you'd have to accept that terrorists are idiots who wouldn't be aware that our government is using every surveillance trick in the book to track them down. (Unless, of course, you're Osama bin Laden, who seems to be getting a pass.)
Does anybody honestly believe that terrorists don't know we tap their phones, spy on their movements, follow their financial transactions? In fact, an administration that didn't use every legal tactic at its disposal should be impeached.
The litany of transgressions is an embarrassment to Americans: the warrentless wiretapping, the endless Guantanamo prison detentions, the secret prisons around the world, the assertion that we don't have to follow any international conventions on the treatment of prisoners, sending officials to hearings who refuse to answer lawmakers' questions. The problem with the latest revelation is that no one is allowed to verify what is actually going on.
The administration says Congress is notified. But not really. It might tell a few select congressmen, but it gags them from discussing it with anyone. (Of course, this assumes that the Republican-led House and Senate would stop being lapdogs for the administration and for once assert some oversight.)
Journalists are challenged to inspect the prisons at Guantanamo and then not given any meaningful access. Congress offers to amend the laws governing the secret surveillance courts, but Bush demurs and instead ignores the law at his convenience. Republican Sen. Arlen Specter tries to get the administration to answer questions, but it sends representatives who are not allowed to say anything meaningful.
The Times and other papers revealed that the government was tapping into information from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, an international banking cooperative that has its own Web site and magazine and hosts one of the largest financial trade shows in the world. Not exactly a state secret to anyone with even a passing interest in international finances.
As last week's Supreme Court decision on trials for Guantanamo prisoners showed, Congress has not given Bush a "blank check" to ignore U.S. laws or international treaties. While the decision involved a narrow case, it is a clear indication that the key premise of many of the administration's actions is deeply flawed.
Clearly, this administration doesn't believe in oversight, checks and balances, warrants or even Congress' right to enact legislation. Why else would Bush have set the record for "signing statements" in which he says he doesn't have to follow the law he just signed - including the one banning torture?
This is an imperial presidency at its very worst.
Instead of being condemned, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and the McClatchy (formerly Knight Ridder) Washington, D.C., bureau should be commended for repeatedly exposing the lies and dangerous assaults on our fundamental freedoms and civil liberties.
Let us be clear. We want terrorists caught. We believe government has a duty to use extraordinary efforts to do so. If more powers are needed, go to Congress and get them. But we don't trust this - or any other - administration to operate without real and meaningful checks and balances. To do less is to invite the worst of George Orwell's fascist nightmares.
Beacon of truth
We've said it before: You cannot save democracy by destroying it at home. You cannot hold yourself up as the beacon of truth and righteousness when you abuse human rights, ignore inconvenient international laws or exhibit such breathtaking hypocrisy as Bush and Cheney.
Thank goodness we have the Fourth Estate on their trail.
As James Madison - the father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights - said, "To the press alone, checkered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression."
© 2006 The Olympian