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Abandoning the Constitution in the Fight Against Terrorism

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Abandoning the Constitution in the Fight Against Terrorism

During his terms as governor of Texas, George W. Bush made it clear that he was ignorant of the Constitution by denying due process to the people he executed and refusing effective counsel to indigent inmates. As president, Bush, terrorized by terrorists, is abandoning more and more of the fundamental rights and liberties that he-and his subordinates-assure us they are fighting to preserve.

On Thursday, November 15, William Safire-The New York Times' constitutional conservative-distilled Bush's new raid on the Constitution:

"Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken attorney general, a president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens. . . . We are letting George W. Bush get away with the replacement of the American rule of law with military kangaroo courts. . . . In an Orwellian twist, Bush's order calls this Soviet-style abomination 'a full and fair trial.' "

What Bush has done by executive order-bypassing Congress and the constitutional separation of powers-is to establish special military tribunals to try noncitizens suspected of terrorism. Their authority will extend over permanent noncitizen American residents, lawfully living in the United States, as well as foreigners.

The trials will be held here or in other countries-like Pakistan or "liberated" Afghanistan-and on ships at sea. The trials will be in secret. There will be no juries. Panels of military officers will be the judges-with the power to impose the death penalty if two-thirds of these uniformed judges agree. There will be no appeals to any of the sentences. (Even in regular court martials, judges must rule unanimous...

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... Supreme Court (Olmstead v. United States, 1928), foreshadowed the advent of George W. Bush:

"Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. . . . To declare that in the administration of the criminal law, the end justifies the means . . . would bring terrible retribution. Against this pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face."

In 1928, the Supreme Court agreed with the government's subversion of the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections-setting the initial stage for the current vast expansion of electronic surveillance by the Bush administration-and not only over suspected terrorists. The Court has another
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