Thursday, June 14, 2007

Outside the law -- way outside!

By Carol Gee

When leaders operate outside the law, a very corrosive effect can be expected. The international community, and now the American public, is no longer willing to let the U.S government to do anything they want in the name of national security. Increasingly negative feelings about foreign policy, U.S. public safety, and lack of confidence in government are reflected in the most recent public opinion poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal. Most of us believe the country is going in the wrong direction. MSNBC reports that "President’s, Congress’ ratings drop to lowest levels ever":

[J]ust one in five believe the country is on the right track, which is the lowest number on this question in nearly 15 years.

You mean we cannot even trust the FBI? We have been taught that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is in business to protect United States citizens, national security and investigate law breaking. Widespread abuse of civil liberties by the FBI and other governmental entities is, instead, what has happened in recent years. Yahoo! News/Reuters today (6/14/07) carried this story, headlined '"FBI audit finds widespread abuse in data collection," from which I quote:

An internal FBI audit has found the agency violated rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data on domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, The Washington Post reported on Thursday...

The vast majority of newly discovered violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect, the Post said...

FBI officials said the audit found no evidence that any agent knowingly or willingly violated the laws or that supervisors encouraged such violations, the Post reported. Rather it showed that many agents did not understand or follow the required legal procedures and paperwork requirements when collecting personal information, the Post reported.

At least there are courts we can trust -- A story from last week makes it clear that the Bush administration has operated outside the law regarding so-called "enemy combatants." And it seems that the courts are our only recourse. Headlined "Court Says Military Cannot Hold 'Enemy Combatant'," and written by Adam Liptak of The New York Times, I quote from the June 11, 2007 article:

In a stinging rejection of one of the Bush administration’s central assertions about the scope of executive authority to combat terrorism, a federal appeals court ordered the Pentagon to release a man being held as an enemy combatant.

The Italians do not trust the CIA's lawfulness -- The first criminal trial over the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" of terror suspects opened a week ago in Italy. Naturally, nothing is likely to come of it. Congress continues to do a very poor job of oversight of the so-called "black budget" programs. Ironically, our current president (OCP), visited Italy the same day. He remains oblivious and irrellevant. The BBC News carried this headline: "First CIA rendition trial opens" (6/8/07). To quote:

Twenty-six Americans and six Italians are accused of kidnapping a Muslim cleric from Italy and sending him to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured.

The American CIA agents and military personnel will be tried in absentia. Italy has not announced if it will seek their extradition to the Milan trial.

US President George W Bush arrived in Italy hours after the trial began.

Does the law cover CIA operations in Europe? On the same day as the start of the Italian trial-in-absentia, the Council of Europe reported on a related off the reservation CIA project. Headlined "Report says CIA operated secret prisons in Romania and Poland," it is from the International Herald Tribune (6/8/07). To quote:

In a report issued Friday, the lead investigator for the Council of Europe gave a bleak description of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe with information he said was gleaned from anonymous intelligence agents, many of whom wanted to unburden themselves...

The report, which says the prisons were operated exclusively by Americans in Poland and Romania from 2003 to 2006, relies heavily on testimony from CIA agents who justified grim treatment to investigators: "Here's my question? Was the guy a terrorist? 'Cause if he's a terrorist, then I figure he got what was coming to him"...

A trial that charges American and Italian secret agents with kidnapping a radical imam opened Friday in Milan, in the first prosecution of the contentious U.S. policy of abducting terror suspects for interrogation elsewhere, Ian Fisher of The New York Times reported from Rome.

It would take several more pages to list the many other ways OCP and his current administration are operating outside of the law in the foreign policy/national security arena. I do not have a corner on that knowledge. Please feel free to add comments with your own most egregious examples.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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