Thursday, January 21, 2010

the rule of law has been lost

Creator's Syndicate | As Lawrence Stratton and I show in our book, "The Tyranny of Good Intentions" (2000), the protective features of law in the U.S. were eroded in the twentieth century by prosecutorial abuse and by setting aside law in order to better pursue criminals. By the time of our second edition (2008), law as a shield of the people no longer existed. Respect for the Constitution and rule of law had given way to executive branch claims that during time of war government is not constrained by law or Constitution.

Government lawyers told President Bush that he did not have to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which prohibits the government from spying on citizens without a warrant, thus destroying the right to privacy. The U.S. Department of Justice ruled that the President did not have to obey U.S. law prohibiting torture or the Geneva Conventions. Habeas corpus protection, a Constitutional right, was stripped from U.S. citizens. Medieval dungeons, torture, and the windowless cells of Stalin's Lubyanka Prison reappeared under American government auspices.

The American people's elected representatives in Congress endorsed the executive branch's overthrow of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Law schools and bar associations were essentially silent in the face of this overthrow of mankind's greatest achievement. Some parts of the federal judiciary voted with the executive branch; other parts made a feeble resistance. Today in the name of "the war on terror," the executive branch does whatever it wants. There is no accountability.

The First Amendment has been abridged and may soon be criminalized. Protests against, and criticisms of, the U.S. government's illegal invasions of Muslim countries and war crimes against civilian populations have been construed by executive branch officials as "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." As American citizens have been imprisoned for giving aid to Muslim charities that the executive branch has decreed, without proof in a court of law, to be under the control of "terrorists," any form of opposition to the government's wars and criminal actions can also be construed as aiding terrorists and be cause for arrest and indefinite detention.

One Obama appointee, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein, advocates that the U.S. government create a cadre of covert agents to infiltrate anti-war groups and groups opposed to U.S. government policies in order to provoke them into actions or statements for which they can be discredited and even arrested.

Sunstein defines those who criticize the government's increasingly lawless behavior as "extremists," which, to the general public, sounds much like "terrorists." In essence, Sunstein wants to generalize the F.B.I.'s practice of infiltrating dissidents and organizing them around a "terrorist plot" in order to arrest them. That this proposal comes from a Harvard Law School professor demonstrates the collapse of respect for law among American law professors themselves, ranging from John Yoo at Berkeley, the advocate of torture, to Sunstein at Harvard, a totalitarian who advocates war on the First Amendment.

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