Bill Of Rights ? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bill Of Rights !

As if yesterday’s memo asserting unprecedented extra constitutional Executive authority weren’t bad enough, the Associated Press reports today that former Presidential adviser John Yoo also asserted that a key provision of the Bill of Rights could be ignored in the name of the War On Terror:

For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn’t apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

The 37-page memo is classified and has not been released. Its existence was disclosed Tuesday in a footnote of a separate secret memo, dated March 14, 2003, released by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations,” the footnote states, referring to a document titled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.”

Exactly what domestic military action was covered by the October memo is unclear. But federal documents indicate that the memo relates to the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP.

That program intercepted phone calls and e-mails on U.S. soil, bypassing the normal legal requirement that such eavesdropping be authorized by a secret federal court. The program began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and continued until Jan. 17, 2007, when the White House resumed seeking surveillance warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

What is means is pretty aptly summed up by Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project who said:

“The administration’s lawyers believe the president should be permitted to violate statutory law, to violate international treaties, and even to violate the Fourth Amendment inside the U.S. They believe that the president should be above the law.”

The question we need to be asking anyone running for President is whether they agree with this view of the Constitution.

  • Ben

    Number of times this will be discussed in the Presidential debates: 0.

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  • MikeF

    Well, we weren’t really using them anyways, right?

    I bet not one person in ten could remember them if you asked people on the streets.

    There was a recent diary on DKos from a high school teacher in govt and civics no less who tested his kids and found that 28% of them believed Bush’s frequent assertions that the President has nearly unfettered powers in a time of war and could overrule any laws necessary.

    He apologized and grimly stated that he was going back to the beginning with them and starting over in order to counteract the propaganda.

    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for
    lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”
    — Benjamin Franklin