Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Thoughts Upon Skimming the Moscow Times

A friend sent me on an unrelated journey to read a Moscow Times article concerning Vladimir Putin's reported intention to stay on as President past the end of his constitutionally mandated final final term for want of a successor. For want of a successor? Yeah, exactly. The article is well worth reading in its own right.

But having never visited the Moscow Times before, I decided to linger, and poke around. I found this column by someone with an anglo name concerning extraordinary rendition. The author concludes:

But Bush is facing something far more dangerous than the occasional hiccup of bad PR or toothless probes by his Senate bagmen. There are now several lawsuits afoot filed by innocent survivors of the "rendition" system set up at Bush's direct order. These cases could not only expose the ugly guts of his gulag, but also produce direct evidence of criminal culpability on the part of Bush and his minions under U.S. and international law.

The Regime has responded with draconian ruthlessness to this genuine threat. In the main rendition case -- and in an unrelated lawsuit concerning officially confirmed evidence of terrorist infiltration at the FBI before 9/11 -- Bush is invoking the rarely-used, extra-constitutional "state secrets privilege." This nebulous maneuver, unanchored in law or legislation, allows the government to suppress any evidence against it merely by asserting, without proof, that disclosure of the truth might "harm national security." Evidence "protected" in this way cannot even be heard by a judge in secret -- a well-established practice used successfully in numerous other national security cases over the years. It is simply buried forever, and the case collapses.

It is almost certain that Bush's invocation of this "night-and-fog" measure will be upheld. So let us be clear about the consequences. It will mean that any crime committed by a government official -- torture, rendition, murder, state terrorism, even treason -- can be sealed in permanent darkness. The justice system itself will be "rendered" into a black hole. The victims of state crime -- American citizens as well as foreign captives -- will be left without rights, without redress, without a voice. Bush's kingdom of strappado will reign supreme.

Now, I had heard nothing of the invocation of this "state secrets privilege," so as you might imagine I'd be interested in learning more.

Fortunately -- amazingly -- the column is followed with a long bibliography of some seventeen reputable sources. Think about this: a columnist actually willing to acknowledge all or even many of the sources on which he relies for his information. It's positively revolutionary!

The sources cited include this helpful article from the Chicago Tribune, which takes on the state secrets privilege directly.

According to the article, the administration is invoking this carte blanche provision not only to effectively evade any examination of its rendition policies, but also at least one case examining allegedly bungled translation of terrorism intelligence before and after 9-11 as well as cases not directly related to terrorism.

The use of the state secrets privilege, critics say, is part of President Bush's forceful expansion of presidential secrecy, including a more restrictive approach to releasing documents under the Freedom of Information Act; limitations on the dissemination of presidential papers and curtailment of information on individuals rounded up in the war on terrorism.

Justice Department spokesman Kevin Madden declined to discuss any active cases. But he said, "The state secrets privilege is [asserted] only after a careful determination that, were a secret disclosed, it would adversely affect national security."

The secrets privilege is an especially powerful weapon because federal judges, reluctant to challenge the executive branch on national security, almost never refuse the government's claim to confidentiality.

Ah, careful determinations -- the hallmark of this notoriously transparent and competent administration. And you were worried.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'd like to have a word with you.

-George Bush

8:24 AM  

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