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April 29, 2004

Imperial presidency clips, April 29, 2004

Dan Eggen, The Washington Post, April 29: "Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act":

The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed yesterday that it filed a lawsuit three weeks ago challenging the FBI's methods of obtaining many business records, but the group was barred from revealing even the existence of the case until now.

The lawsuit was filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, but the case was kept under seal to avoid violating secrecy rules contained in the USA Patriot Act, the ACLU said. The group was allowed to release a redacted version of the lawsuit after weeks of negotiations with the government.

(The advertisements at the bottom of the online article are all links to Patriot Act compliance services for bankers; "this article about the law that prevents us from telling you about the suit is brought to you by folks who make their money from the existence of that same law," which feels a little creepy.)

Jay Rosen: "Bush to Press: 'You're Assuming That You Represent the Public. I Don't Accept That.'":

"In our system, the press has the role of..." Generations of journalists spoke confident sentences like that. The press is a vital check on power. It's quasi-Constitutional. Bush, head of government, rejects this idea. That theory has gone down, he says. And you guys don't have that kind of muscle anymore.

Harvey Silverglate and Carl Takei in the Boston Phoenix: "Covering a multitude of sins":

JOHN F. KENNEDY once recounted a revealing joke told by Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier during the 1950s and �60s, in response to Kennedy�s complaints about the uncontrollable Washington press corps: a Russian ran through the Kremlin shouting, "Khrushchev is a fool! Khrushchev is a fool!" For this outburst, the man was sentenced to 23 years in prison. When Kennedy retorted that in the United States it was impossible to imprison a newsman for insulting the nation�s leader, Khrushchev explained that only three years of the sentence were for insulting the premier � the remaining 20 were for "revealing a state secret."

Government officials too often avoid accountability by sweeping incompetence and dishonesty under the rug of "national security." Yet our country � unlike Khrushchev�s Soviet Union � has a tradition of counterbalancing such secrecy by protecting a free press, allowing citizens to converse without risk, and honoring the efforts of brave whistle blowers � those who defy the culture of secrecy and leak information to the press to inform the public of governmental wrongdoing, mistakes, and deceptions. The Bush administration, however, is aggressively working to prevent such public scrutiny in four distinct ways: it has widened the range of classified and otherwise confidential (but non-classified) materials. It has expanded its ability to criminally prosecute government employees who leak such materials. It has signaled a willingness to move against reporters who publish those leaks. And, most significantly, it is using new "material support" statutes to do an end run around the First Amendment and criminalize many forms of political advocacy.

Humanities and Social Sciences Online: "Plaintiffs File Motion to Alter Judgement in PRA Case":

On 12 April 2004, plaintiffs party to the suit to overturn President Bush's Executive Order 13233 which relates to the administration of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) filed a motion to "alter or amend" the judgement entered 29 March 2004 that dismissed the plaintiffs case on standing and ripeness grounds...

...The motion was filed just days after Public Citizen was notified of a denial of its FOIA appeal on some 74 pages of materials (11 separate documents) of Reagan era records that have yet to be released to scholars under constitutionally-based privilege provisions of the PRA. Among the records being withheld: a six-page 8 December 1986 memo to the President and Director of Public Affairs entitled, "Talking Points on Iran/Contra Affairs"; a series of memos dated 22 November and 1 December 1988 for the President entitled, "Pardon for Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Joseph Fernandez"; and a two-page memo for the President from the Attorney General, "Appeal of the Decision Denying the Enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987." Other withheld memos relate to the extension of claims of Executive Privilege over the release of Justice Rehnquist's papers and materials relating to "Use of Military Aircraft by Mrs. Reagan."

Dahlia Lithwick in Slate (April 27): "I've Got a Secret":

Today's case is a study in the evils of premature litigation. It's a lesson in why the cheerleader who doesn't make the squad throws everything off when she appeals to the gym teacher, then the principal, and then the secretary of education, instead of just sucking it up and joining the band. Vice President Cheney was sued by two watchdog groups—Sierra Club and Judicial Watch—for information about the outsiders who served on his energy policy task force in 2001. The watchdogs contend that "task force" was just a series of cozy get-togethers in which energy executives and lobbyists, including Ken Lay, took turns sitting on Cheney's lap, licking his ear, and requesting special favors. The final report issued by the commission sort of reads that way. When Cheney was ordered to produce the rosters and minutes of these meetings as part of pretrial discovery, he appealed that order all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dahlia Lithwick in Slate (April 29): "Cruel Detentions":

How you feel about the indefinite military detentions of Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla will turn largely on what you think life will look like when it starts. By "it," I mean the moment at which fundamental liberties are curtailed by well-meaning governments and the legal system becomes unable to offer relief.

...The crucial issue for both Hamdi and Padilla is whether the courts will hand the president the power to detain alleged "enemy combatants" indefinitely, without charges or access to counsel.
Posted by Brenden at April 29, 2004 10:34 PM


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