Irony and the Rule of Law, Part 1

From a speech by Eric Holder to the American Constitution Society shortly before he was named Attorney General by then-President-elect Barack Obama, waxing eloquent about the vital importance of the rule of law — a position he quickly abandoned once in office.

Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the ‘War on Terror’ have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe. For the sake of our safety and security, and because it is the right thing to do, the next president must move immediately to reclaim America’s standing in the world as a nation that cherishes and protects individual freedom and basic human rights…

Unfortunately in the last few years, we have quite frankly lost our way with respect to this commitment to the Constitution and to the rule of law. The rule of law is not, as some have seen it, an obstacle to be overcome, but the very foundations of our nation. It is the rule of law that has held us together despite our differences while other nations have descended into strife. It is the rule of law that has made the United States a beacon to the world – a nation that others aspire to emulate…

Although we did not respond to 9/11 by imprisoning Muslim Americans, our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance of American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the Writ of Habeus Corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants, and authorized the use of procedures that both violate international law and the United States Constitution…

Although we did not respond to 9/11 by imprisoning Muslim Americans, our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance of American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the Writ of Habeus Corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants, and authorized the use of procedures that both violate international law and the United States Constitution…

Fourth, to those in the Executive branch who say “just trust us” when it comes to secret and warrantless surveillance of domestic communications I say remember your history. In my lifetime, federal government officials wiretapped, harassed and blackmailed Martin Luther King and other civil rights leader in the name of national security. One of America’s greatest heroes whom today we honor with a national holiday, countless streets, schools and soon a monument in his name, was treated like a criminal by those in our federal government possessed of too much discretion and a warped sense of patriotism. Watergate revealed similar abuses during the Nixon administration. These and other government abuses of power led Congress to enact into law the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 – FISA. We must utilize and enhance our intelligence collection capabilities to identify and to root out terrorists. We must also comply with the law. We must also comply with FISA.

That last part is especially ironic given the DOJ’s position under Holder of arguing that FISA cannot be enforced against the executive branch because of the State Secrets Privilege. Sure would have been nice if he’d actually meant those words.

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About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.


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