It’s hard to believe that Vice-President Dick Cheney believes in Constitutional rights -- at least after all that he and his protégé, George W. Bush, have done to the American people the past five years.
First, there is the USA PATRIOT Act, which twisted and shredded the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution. Those amendments once guaranteed the rights of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances; freedom from unreasonable searches; due process and the right against self-incrimination; the right to counsel, a speedy trial, and the right to a fair and public trial by an impartial jury; reasonable bail and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment; and an equal protection guarantee for both citizens and non-citizens.
There are the “No Fly” lists, databases that track what meals you ate, and innumerable “spy-upon-your-brother” programs.
There are the mass designations of “enemy combatants” that allow the Administration to hold anyone in secret, with no legal recourse, for as long as it wants. Of course, that pesky Supreme Court said otherwise, but what’s a Court’s opinion worth when the President believes he has a “mandate” from the people.
There were the officially-sanctioned tortures of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay and Iraq, and of the Administration’s doctrine that the Geneva Conventions were “quaint” and outdated. Even after the Senate, by a 90-9 vote, passed a no-torture amendment to the $440 billion Defense Appropriations bill, President Bush threatened to veto the entire package if the amendment wasn’t removed. It would be the first veto in his five-year presidency.
Mixed into all of this were the secret meetings with the oil industry to determine the nation’s environmental policies, and myriad Vice-Presidential and Presidential appearances where only those who affirm their loyalty to the Bush–Cheney agenda are allowed to attend.
But, Vice President Cheney has now seen the light -- hallelujah! -- and believes in the Constitution and civil rights. Praise the Bush!
I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, who doubled as the Vice-President’s chief of staff and Assistant to the President, had just been indicted by the federal government and charged with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and two counts of making false statements. A 22-page indictment against Libby, who resigned shortly before the indictment was made public, came after a 25-month investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, a Republican and U.S. Attorney in Chicago. The indictment charged that Libby told reporters that Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, an outspoken critic of the Bush–Cheney plan to invade Iraq, was a CIA covert agent. In the Bush–Cheney era, anyone contradicting the Administration’s political philosophy is unpatriotic, maybe even treasonous. Wilson had to be dealt with.
According to the indictment, an unidentified “Official A,” widely believed to be Karl Rove, the President’s deputy chief of staff and chief political strategist, revealed Plame’s identity to syndicated conservative columnist Robert Novak who dutifully published it in a July 14, 2003 column. Rove faced the Grand Jury four times, but wasn’t indicted.
About the same time Rove was leaking, Libby also leaked the news to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, whose primary responsibilities the past couple of years were to channel just about anything the Bush–Cheney Administration said. Miller’s story didn’t get published, but she went to jail for 85 days for disregarding a federal subpoena requiring she divulge her source.
Libby also “leaked” the information to Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, which did publish it. It wasn’t long before most of the nation’s media jumped onto the story—not of the leak, but of Plame’s marriage and job. No one in the “We-protect-America-at-all-costs” Administration or the media seemed to care that revealing the name of a CIA covert operative violated federal law and the nation’s security.
In an official statement, the Vice-President praised his friend and strongly reminded the American people that “In our system of government an accused person is presumed innocent until a contrary finding is made by a jury after an opportunity to answer the charges and a full airing of the facts. Mr. Libby is entitled to that opportunity.” A remarkable statement from a man who believes “enemy combatants” should rot in cages, and Americans captured by the PATRIOT Act are guilty.
Libby wasn’t charged with violating the Espionage Act for releasing confidential information or disclosing the identity of an undercover agent, but with lying to federal prosecutors, the FBI, and the Grand Jury. In all of his appearances before the FBI and the Grand Jury, Libby was flanked by his lawyers, a right not granted to those detained under the PATRIOT Act or who are given the appellation, “enemy combatant.”
Should Libby go to trial, there is no question that Cheney, Rove, and several other Administration officials will be called to testify. Assuming they don’t perjure themselves, they will have to acknowledge that they pushed America into a war for reasons that were known to be false, and to cover their lies they tried to discredit Joseph Wilson and others who revealed the truth. They will have to confess they told others about Plame’s CIA role, and that they knew what Libby was doing, and may have even encouraged Libby to expose Plame’s job. Of course, all of this is just conjecture. As the Vice-President said, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Walter Brasch’s latest book is America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights, available through most major on-line bookstores. Assisting on this story was Rosemary R. Brasch. You may contact Dr. Brasch through his website, www.walterbrasch.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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