Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Justice Says CIA Destroyed 92 Tapes

This is how Bush and Cheney believed in: In one memo, Department of Justice lawyers said the president could order the U.S. military to mobilize domestically to combat terrorism, in contravention of laws that generally prohibit such use of the military on U.S. soil. Other memos described the president's power to conduct surveillance without court warrants.

Bush's lackeys in effect said he could violate the constitution, deploy the military in the homeland, and ignore the courts. Nice.

Many of the legal opinions were written by John C. Yoo, a former official in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The Obama administration is defending Mr. Yoo and other former Bush officials who are being sued over their national-security legal work. In an October 2001 memo, Mr. Yoo asserted that "the president has both the constitutional and statutory authority to use the armed forces in military operations, against terrorists within the United States." He added that such a move wouldn't be subject to Fourth Amendment restrictions on unreasonable searches and seizures so long as they are acting in a military, not law-enforcement, function.

Defending the past administration, the current administration is obviously trying to uphold the principle that government officials should not be prosecuted. But such sweeping interpretation of what is legal is quite troublesome.

The government also released memos from the final months of the Bush administration that renounced the legal reasoning of the early post-9/11 period. In one October 2008 memo, a top Justice official called earlier opinions "either incorrect or highly questionable."

Yoo was gone from government after 2003. He has also worked as a visiting scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute since 2003.

A former Bush official involved in national-security policy took issue with the release Monday of the memos. "I think these guys want to make a show of criticizing their predecessors, but they aren't saying clearly what they would do in the same situation," said the official, who declined to be identified. "They're trying to satisfy their...base. On the other hand they're responsible for the safety of the country, so they want to keep the same options open to them."

Fair enough; seems accurate.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to expand an existing probe of the tape destruction into a broader examination of the CIA interrogation program.

It should be investigated.

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