Secrecy News 04/28/05 breaks the story of a new report from the Congressional Research Service that disputes the Bush Administration's claim that the President has unlimited authority to detain American citizens in wartime if he deems them to be enemy combatants.
Significantly, “Detention of U.S. Citizens,” Congressional Research Service, April 28, 2005, is by the highly respected Louis Fisher, an authority on constitutional law.
The introduction says that the report is aimed at a core issue raised in the Padilla case:
In 1971, Congress passed legislation to repeal the Emergency Detention Act of 1950 and to enact the following language: “No citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress.” The new language, codified at 18 U.S.C. §4001(a), is called the Non-Detention Act. This statutory provision received attention after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when the Administration designated certain U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants” and claimed the right to detain them indefinitely without charging them, bringing them to trial, or giving them access to counsel. In litigation over Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla, both designated enemy combatants, the Administration has argued that the Non-Detention Act restricts only imprisonments and detentions by the Attorney General, not by the President or military authorities.
And the conclusion is blunt:
Legislative debate, committee reports, and the political context of 1971 indicate that when Congress enacted Section 4001(a) it intended the statutory language to restrict all detentions by the executive branch, not merely those by the Attorney General. Lawmakers, both supporters and opponents of Section 4001(a), recognized that it would restrict the President and military authorities.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose re-election campaign has been dogged by charges that he joined the invasion of Iraq in the face of advice by his Attorney General that the invasion would be illegal, has published the final draft of the legal advice sent to his office.
I've only had time to read this very quickly, but here are my preliminary thoughts. I invite corrections and amplifications.
To the extent that Blair may have claimed in the past that the advice told him the invasion was legal, the document reveals a somewhat more equivocal endorsement, more of the form of “maybe” or “good arguable case, might not ultimately convince a tribunal.' But the memo clearly doesn't forbid it.
In domestic UK terms, this may still be damaging, since Blair didn't disclose the existence of the doubts to Parliament, and thus can be accused of lack of candor. In US terms, the memo is pretty middle of the road, and won't make partisans on either side terribly happy.
The horrible thing about my relationship with MS Windows is that you get so used to believing that so many simple things are unnecessarily hard (today's peeve: those dropdown boxes for directory/drive searches that are too small, and only go down from where it thinks you are). You get so used to doing it the hard way that you stop looking for easy ways, even when they exist (and when you finally find them it just makes you grumpier).
So, thank you Ed Bott for today's seemingly obvious Tip of the day: Instantly maximize any window:
Are you tired of trying to hit the tiny maximize/restore button in the top right corner of a window? There's an easier alternative: Double-click anywhere on the title bar. The entire title bar acts as an oversized toggle. Double-click to maximize the window; double-click again to restore the original window size.
I suppose that should teach me for smugly looking at so many of the past tips and saying “Well, of course, everyone knows that. But in fact, what I mostly feel is irritation: why wasn't this more obvious?
Readers who would like to salt the debate that arose in the comments to my item on It's Official: Grounds for Iraq War Were Imaginary might like to look at Juan Cole's Guest Comment: “Bush is Lying” by Kevin McMillan, and especially the links he gives regarding WMD in Iraq.
This is actually yesterday's news, but it's a telling detail nonetheless. In an article by David Kirkpatrick entitled Rove and Frist Reject Democrats' Compromise Over Bush's Judicial Nominees, we learn that Bush has promised Sen. Reid that he wouldn't get personally involved in the fight over the nuclear option.
So Cheney and Rove are in the trenches (which breaks the spirit but not the letter of the promise?), but Bush will sit this one out. Or break his word. Which would make it all even more personal…
Hard to believe, but insofar as one cares about truth, fair play, or honesty in government, the House GOP has now sunk to a new low: re-writing a House committee report to distort the intentions of Democrats offering amendments: amendments offered to protect family members and innocent bystanders were rewritten to and mis-characterized to make it look as if the Democrats had in fact proposed to give a free pass to various types of 'sexual predators'.
What's the right name for this sort of behavior? Dishonest seems too weak. Fascist seems too strong, but less so than it used to. In between there are so many words to choose from…
Will anyone rise in the House on a point of personal privilege and call them out? Move to censure or even expel the perpetrators (not that it has a chance of passing…)?
Meanwhile, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, issued a great statement about this new perversion of the House Rules.