Thursday, April 26, 2007

Guantanamo’s Legal Void

The Opinionator

Bush tries to kill all the Gitmo lawyers: “We should not forget this central point: The Justice Department is trying to do everything possible to prevent Guantanamo detainees from having any rights at all,” writes Yale law professor Jack Balkin at the group legal blog Balkinization. “It wants to get as close as it can to what it the Bush Administration sought before [the Supreme Court decisions in] Rasul and Hamdan — a law-free zone. But the more the Justice Department tries to eliminate procedural protections and basic elements of fairness for the detainees, the more it undermines its argument that the detainees have a remedy that is just as good as habeas.” Balkin continues:

The Bush Administration wants what it has always wanted — a legal black hole, a place where it can seize any non-citizen, declare them an enemy of the state and hold them without any means of redress. It wants, in other words, the very absence of law.

Although we have been momentarily distracted by the scandals over Alberto Gonzales, we should remember that the Administration’s policies on detention and interrogation — all devised and approved by Justice Department lawyers — are the real reason why this Administration, and this Justice Department, have been such a disgrace to our country and to our traditions of government under law.


Still Gonzo for Gonzales

“Bush, never entranced with life in Washington, detests dealing with a Democratic Congress,” writes Robert Novak in his Chicago Sun-Times column. “Reflecting annoyance and fatigue, he is unwilling to withstand incessant attacks from the likes of Reid and is ready to fight it out for the over 20 months left in his term. Retaining Gonzales means Bush has slipped behind the barricades.” Novak continues:

All the Republicans in Congress whom I contacted view this as pure folly. For the long term, they predict that constant war by their president against the majority Democrats would cast a pall on the Republicans’ chances of retaining the presidency in 2008. For the shorter term, they foresee nothing but trouble from Gonzales continuing in power. “I cannot imagine,” said a House GOP leader who would not be quoted by name, “how [Bush] thinks Gonzales can function effectively with no Republican support.”

Novak adds: “While the current cliché is that Bush never should have named Gonzales attorney general in the first place, the consensus in the administration was that Gonzales also was at sea in his first post, as White House counsel. Colin Powell, Bush’s first-term secretary of state, was so appalled by Gonzales that he shunted contact with him off to Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, who in turn handed him down to lower levels along the State Department chain of command.”

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