Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bush's imperial powers

Scott McClellan maintains that when Bush presented discredited information about mobile bioweapons laboratories in Iraq, he had no choice because the discrediting data was classified and it would be inappropriate to make use of it to modify a set of talking points to make sure that it wasn't full of falsehoods and misrepresentations to present to the American public:
I think the CIA will tell you -- and I spoke to them earlier today -- that a finished product like this, a white paper like this, takes coordination, it takes debating, it takes vetting, and it's not something that they will tell you turns on a dime. It's a complex intelligence white paper and it's ... one derived from highly classified information takes a substantial amount of time to coordinate and to run through a declassification process. And they will tell you this. And the intelligence comes in many different forms -- human intelligence, signals intelligence, open source -- and it's not a trickle, it's a constant flood, is what they told me this morning. And weighing and assessing it is something that takes a lot of time and is a technology-intensive process. So you're making an assumption that something is immediately taken and assessed by your comments.
Yet at the same time, the Bush administration takes such a cavalier view of the declassification process (or rather, such a strong view of the power of the President to act upon the whims of the moment) that he can approve leaking the identity of an undercover CIA agent in order to get revenge on a U.S. Ambassador who is criticizing the administrations falsehoods about Iraq attempting to purchase uranium in Niger.

Meanwhile, Alberto Gonzales says that the President could legally intercept domestic communications without FISA Court approval as a result of the AUMF (authorization for the use of military force in Iraq), in addition to being able to unilaterally declare U.S. citizens to be enemy combatants and hold them indefinitely without trial and engage in torture.

It is growing more and more clear that the current administration thinks the President's powers are unlimited, and Bush's December 18, 2000 comment that "if this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier--so long as I'm the dictator" and his July 30, 2001 Business Week comment that "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it" weren't really jokes.

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