Thursday, October 19, 2006

The essence of tyranny

This article from Andrew Cohen in the Washington Post breaks my heart. It really does. Speaking of the new torture law--that astonishing assault on centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence, on everything that makes us different from the uncivilized world--he writes:

Enormous and unchecked new power now has been given to a White House whose officials at first called Zacarias Moussaoui the "20th hijacker" but were wrong; who at first called Jose Padilla the "dirty bomber" but were wrong; who at first called Yaser Hamdi such a threat to national security that he could not even be allowed to talk to his attorney -- until they decided to set him free. Freedom from judicial review now has been given to the same administration officials who allowed Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen whom we now know that they knew was not a terrorist, to be transferred to Syria for torture. Vague or narrow definitions of torture now have been given to the executive branch operatives who are responsible for Abu Ghraib. New powers have been given to the people who brought us the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, the one that some legal experts say violates both federal law and the Constitution.
The rule of law is everything. It is the most important, the most fundamental thing in our society. The rule of law means that the law applies to everyone--to the government as much as to citizens. The rule of law means that the person implimenting the law (the executive) does not get to say what a law means.

Legal blogger Jack Balkin writes (as reported in the Post):

The President has created a new regime in which he is a law unto himself on issues of prisoner interrogations. He decides whether he has violated the laws, and he decides whether to prosecute the people he in turn urges to break the law. And all the while he insists that everything he does is perfectly legal, because, the way the law is designed, there is no one with authority to disagree.

It is a travesty of law under the forms of law. It is the accumulation of executive, judicial, and legislative powers in a single branch and under a single individual.

It is the very essence of tyranny.

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