Thursday, August 16, 2007

Judges skewer Bush defense team

By Libby

Thank you God for the 9th Circuit Court, which seems to be the last outpost for judicial defense of our constitutional rights. Notable for their level headed rulings in drug war cases, they were just as robust in confronting the Bush administration on their spurious state secrets defense in domestic surveillance cases. Two of the remaining fifty pending matters went before the body this week and the judges were in rare form.

Here's some of the choicest quotes.
"The bottom line here is the government declares something is a state secret, that's the end of it. No cases. . . . The king can do no wrong," said Judge Harry Pregerson, one of three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who grilled administration lawyers at length over whether a pair of lawsuits against the government should go forward.

At one point, Garre argued that courts are not the right forum for complaints about government surveillance, and that "other avenues" are available. "What is that? Impeachment?" Pregerson shot back.

"Well, who decides if something is a state secret or not?" Pregerson asked. "Are you saying the courts are to rubber-stamp the determination of the executive of what's a state secret? What's our job?"

One can certainly understand why the Alice in Wonderland reference came up during the questioning. When a government attorney was confronted with evidence of a top secret document confirming the illegal surveillance, which the government subseqently retrieved during a raid on the plaintiff attorney's offices, he had this to say.
Thomas M. Bondy, a Justice Department lawyer, acknowledged the mistake but pointedly refused to confirm the document's authenticity. "You don't confirm or deny if someone is the subject to foreign surveillance," Bondy said. "The whole point is no one knows, or at least the United States government maximizes uncertainty over it."

Otherwise, he added, "it will make certain things certain that are not certain."

That pretty much sums up the entire tenure of the Bush presidency. Obfuscation is clarity. The simple truth will never serve the agenda. Orwell would be proud.

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