Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Justice Department Releases Bush-era memos Legalizing Torture, Detaining American Citizens, Suspending First Amendment Rights

As reported by the AFP, United States Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday released past internal memos from the Justice Department legalizing torture and indefinite imprisonment of “enemy combatants” including American citizens. Some of the legal explanations found in the memos explicitly gave the President the authority to act unilaterally in deciding the fate of terror suspects.

In addition, other memos point to explicit attempts to use military force against citizens (long outlawed by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1807 until the John Warner Defense Act of 2006). Also, certain memos legitimized the suspension of the First Amendment in any declared national emergency, all at the discretion of the President.

High level Justice Department officials are quoted in legal memorandums. It is former Assistant Attorney General John Yoo who wrote "The power to dispose of the liberty of individuals captured ... remain in the hands of the president alone," in 2002.

Justice Department released memos from October 21, 2001 gave the President power to suspend First Amendment free-speech rights as well as Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizure.

John Yoo and Robert Delahunty wrote, “The current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically.”

According to Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, a Justice Department writing released from mid-January this year retroactively dismissed all memos regarding presidential authority from 2001-2003. This memorandum may be the “smoking gun” in possible upcoming torture and suspension of Bill of Rights investigations and court proceedings.

American citizens are quick to condemn torture and shudder at hearing of extraordinary rendition transports. However, many Americans may not yet be comfortable with seeing their government officials at federal or international war crimes trials. But, with the swelling tide of legal action, Americans may have to get used to this uncomfortable reality.

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