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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Various items

(1) In response to my post the other day regarding the failure of the media to report on the extremist rhetoric and tactics that are now commonplace among the most prominent right-wing bloggers, Terry Welch urged readers to pose questions about this failure to Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz during the online chat Kurtz hosts each week. Several readers did so, and I have a post up at C&L this morning regarding Kurtz's responses.

(2) For those interested, the Editors at Poor Man Institute have a post documenting the "quality" of responses to my posts this week from the right-wing blogosphere. The discussion which ensues in the Comment section regarding that matter is instructive. And as the Editors document, as does this post, this truly adolescent and enraged level of rhetoric is being promoted and encouraged by those who most frequently lament the allegedly lowly state of discourse among "the Left."

(3) As has been widely discussed, Alberto Gonzales admitted during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that it was due to President Bush's personal denial of necessary security clearances that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility was unable to investigate the role played by DoJ lawyers in authorizing the President's warrantless eavesdropping program. Back in May, Jeralyn Merritt posted some of the revealing correspondence regarding these efforts.

Undoubtedly, Bush followers will argue -- as Tony Snow lamely did yesterday -- that the Commander-in-Chief was simply trying to limit knowledge of this critical, illegal program to as few people as possible, but this paragraph from the Associated Press, by itself, dispenses with that excuse:

Yet, according to OPR chief Marshall Jarrett, "a large team" of prosecutors and FBI agents were granted security clearances to pursue an investigation into leaks of information that resulted in the program's disclosure in December. Justice Department inspector general Glenn A. Fine and two of his aides were among other department officials who were granted clearances, Jarrett said in an April memo explaining the end of his probe. That memo was released by the Justice Department Tuesday.

When it comes to criminally prosecuting those who alerted Americans to the existence of this illegal eavesdropping, these alleged security concerns disappear, and all sorts of investigators are given full access to the details of the program to enable them to conduct an aggressive investigation. But when it comes to investigating whether the President and his legal advisors acted properly with regard to the same program, the President blocks any such investigation from occurring on the grounds that not even DoJ lawyers can be trusted to investigate.

As I have noted many times before, the critical point is not merely that the President broke the law, but that he knew he was acting illegally, as evidenced by the White House's repeated and ongoing attempts to block any judicial review of the President's behavior and, now, the President's personal efforts to block even DoJ investigations of the propriety of his conduct. The President not only blatantly breaks the law in eavesdropping on Americans without warrants, but then attempts to block all courts from reviewing the legality of his conduct and block all investigations (by Congress and now even by the executive branch) into what occurred by invoking frivolous and inconsistent claims about national security.

Is there any grounds for reasonable dispute about whether our system of Government was intended to allow the President to violate a Congressional statute in secret and then block all courts from ruling on the legality of his conduct, and block all investigations into what occurred? If those circumstances do not reflect a President who believes he is above the law, what would?

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