Friday, December 23, 2005

Police-state actions violate America's birthright

British historian Lord Acton's most celebrated 19th century insight—"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely"—defines the Bush presidency's mounting disregard for democratic government and the rule of law.

This White House has forgotten the American birthright that makes freedom from police state abuses paramount to our way of life and the magnet for millions immigrating here to flee oppression and the heavy hands of government agents.

Since 9/11, President George W. Bush has pieced together the world's largest and most expensive government intelligence system and used it to wiretap and spy on American citizens without justification.

Vice President Dick Cheney finally admitted what drives this hunger for more power: expanding presidential authority that Cheney and right-wingers believe has been lost to courts and Congress.

But when will Bush be sated? He rules by executive orders to declare war, relieve industry of environmental responsibility, seize public land for political friends, order "suspects" imprisoned without lawyers and without charges, declare presidential papers secret, and retain and reward incompetent officials.

President Bush probably broke the law—perhaps an impeachable offense—by ordering National Security Agency wiretaps without required approval of the 10-judge, ultra-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, created in 1978 after reckless disregard for law by another imperial president, Richard M. Nixon.

Although the court allows 15 days after an emergency surveillance action to seek approval, the White House waved off the law as wasting time.

For his part, NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden has been misleading Americans since Bush ordered the NSA bugs in 2002. "We are, I would offer, the most aggressive agency in the intelligence community when it comes to protecting U.S. privacy. We just have to be that way," he declared in one of many speeches.

Americans were amply warned their freedoms and balance of government powers were in jeopardy.

Karl Rove, the "architect" of President Bush's rapid rise to power, boasted he would create an all-Republican government—the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court—to transform the United States into a principality of the far right virtually immune to political opposition.

Only one more conservative Supreme Court justice is needed to complete this triumvirate of power and enable roughshod defiance of law and abuse of American civil liberties by the White House.

Americans should not sit by quietly as their birthright of government checks and balances is systematically destroyed.

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