We share with you the full text of the speech given by Al Gore on November 9th, 2003 ... This text and introduction to the speech has been provided by the folks at MoveOn.org.
Yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore spoke to a
packed audience of almost 3,000 MoveOn supporters
about the Bush administration's attacks on our basic
freedoms. Not mincing words, Mr. Gore said,
'I want to challenge the Bush Administration's
implicit assumption that we have to give up
many of our traditional freedoms
in order to be safe from terrorists.
Because it is simply not true.
In fact, in my opinion, it makes
no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as
the best way to get at terrorists
than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to
get at Osama Bin Laden.
In both cases, the Administration
has attacked the wrong target.
In both cases they have recklessly
put our country in grave and unnecessary danger,
while avoiding and neglecting obvious
and much more important challenges that would
actually help to protect the country.
In both cases, the administration
has fostered false impressions and misled the nation
with superficial, emotional and
manipulative presentations that are not worthy of
In both cases they have exploited
public fears for partisan political gain and postured
themselves as bold defenders of
our country while actually weakening not strengthening
The full text of this remarkable speech is attached
With this speech, the groundswell of opposition to
the Patriot Act, that has erupted through local resolutions in
thousands of cities across the nation, has now leapt
to the national stage. This is not a partisan issue. This is
about defending the very fabric of our nation. Americans
are fed up with politicians who use fear to consolidate
power, leaving our institutions and traditions in
You can view a webcast of the speech at:
http://www.moveon.org/gore/webcast.html : no longer active
The speech was covered by major media outlets -- AP,
New York Times, Washington Post. We need to
continue the drumbeat.
We'd like to place ads in the New York Times and in
USA Today, with key
excerpts from this speech. Can you
Just go to:
https://www.moveonvoterfund.org/donate/gore-ad.html : not active
If we can raise $160,000 to the MoveOn.org Voter Fund,
the Voter Fund will develop these ads today and get
this campaign launched.
The setting -- Constitution Hall in Washington DC --
was perfect for this speech. And the crowd was just as
inspiring as the speech. Thanks to all who attended
and thanks for your support of this crucial campaign.
--Carrie, Eli, James, Joan, Noah, Peter, Wes, and Zack
The MoveOn.org Team
November 10th, 2003
MoveOn.org co-sponsored this event with the American
Constitution Society. ACS is a national organization of
law students, lawyers, academics, judges, and policymakers
committed to restoring the values of human
dignity, individual rights and liberties, equality,
and access to justice to their rightful, central place in American
law. Visit ACS at: www.acslaw.org
As Prepared for Delivery
By Al Gore
November 9, 2003
FREEDOM AND SECURITY
Thank you, Lisa, for that warm and generous introduction.
Thank you Zack, and thank you all for coming here
I want to thank the American Constitution Society for
co-sponsoring today's event, and for their hard work and
dedication in defending our most basic public values.
And I am especially grateful to Moveon.org, not only
for co-sponsoring this event, but also for using 21st Century
techniques to breathe new life into our democracy.
For my part, I'm just a 'recovering politician' --
but I truly believe that some of the issues most important to
America's future are ones that all of us should be
And perhaps the most important of these issues is the
one I want to talk about today: the true relationship
between Freedom and Security.
So it seems to me that the logical place to start the
discussion is with an accounting of exactly what has
happened to civil liberties and security since the
vicious attacks against America of September 11, 2001 -- and
it's important to note at the outset that the Administration
and the Congress have brought about many beneficial
and needed improvements to make law enforcement and
intelligence community efforts more effective against
But a lot of other changes have taken place that a
lot of people don't know about and that come as unwelcome
surprises. For example, for the first time in our
history, American citizens have been seized by the executive
branch of government and put in prison without being
charged with a crime, without having the right to a trial,
without being able to see a lawyer, and without even
being able to contact their families.
President Bush is claiming the unilateral right to
do that to any American citizen he believes is an 'enemy
combatant.' Those are the magic words. If the President
alone decides that those two words accurately
describe someone, then that person can be immediately
locked up and held incommunicado for as long as the
President wants, with no court having the right to
determine whether the facts actually justify his imprisonment.
Now if the President makes a mistake, or is given faulty
information by somebody working for him, and locks up
the wrong person, then it's almost impossible for
that person to prove his innocence -- because he can't talk to
a lawyer or his family or anyone else and he doesn't
even have the right to know what specific crime he is
accused of committing. So a constitutional right to
liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we used to think of in
an old-fashioned way as 'inalienable' can now be instantly
stripped from any American by the President with
no meaningful review by any other branch of government.
How do we feel about that? Is that OK?
Here's another recent change in our civil liberties:
Now, if it wants to, the federal government has the right to
monitor every website you go to on the internet, keep
a list of everyone you send email to or receive email from
and everyone who you call on the telephone or who
calls you -- and they don't even have to show probable
cause that you've done anything wrong. Nor do they
ever have to report to any court on what they're doing with
the information. Moreover, there are precious few
safeguards to keep them from reading the content of all your
Everybody fine with that?
If so, what about this next change?
For America's first 212 years, it used to be that if
the police wanted to search your house, they had to be able to
convince an independent judge to give them a search
warrant and then (with rare exceptions) they had to go
bang on your door and yell, 'Open up!' Then, if you
didn't quickly open up, they could knock the door down.
Also, if they seized anything, they had to leave a
list explaining what they had taken. That way, if it was all a
terrible mistake (as it sometimes is) you could go
and get your stuff back.
But that's all changed now. Starting two years ago,
federal agents were given broad new statutory authority by
the Patriot Act to 'sneak and peak' in non-terrorism
cases. They can secretly enter your home with no warning
-- whether you are there or not -- and they can wait
for months before telling you they were there. And it doesn't
have to have any relationship to terrorism whatsoever.
It applies to any garden-variety crime. And the new law
makes it very easy to get around the need for a traditional
warrant -- simply by saying that searching your
house might have some connection (even a remote one)
to the investigation of some agent of a foreign power.
Then they can go to another court, a secret court,
that more or less has to give them a warrant whenever they
Three weeks ago, in a speech at FBI Headquarters, President
Bush went even further and formally proposed
that the Attorney General be allowed to authorize
subpoenas by administrative order, without the need for a
warrant from any court.
What about the right to consult a lawyer if you're
arrested? Is that important?
Attorney General Ashcroft has issued regulations authorizing
the secret monitoring of attorney-client
conversations on his say-so alone; bypassing procedures
for obtaining prior judicial review for such monitoring
in the rare instances when it was permitted in the
past. Now, whoever is in custody has to assume that the
government is always listening to consultations between
them and their lawyers.
Does it matter if the government listens in on everything
you say to your lawyer? Is that Ok?
Or, to take another change; and thanks to the librarians,
more people know about this one; the
FBI now has the right to go into any library and ask
for the records of everybody who has used the library and
get a list of who is reading what. Similarly, the
FBI can demand all the records of banks, colleges, hotels,
hospitals, credit-card companies, and many more kinds
of companies. And these changes are only the
beginning. Just last week, Attorney General Ashcroft
issued brand new guidelines permitting FBI agents to run
credit checks and background checks and gather other
information about anyone who is 'of investigatory
interest,' - meaning anyone the agent thinks is suspicious
- without any evidence of criminal behavior.
So, is that fine with everyone?
Listen to the way Israel's highest court dealt with
a similar question when, in 1999, it was asked to balance due
process rights against dire threats to the security
of its people:
'This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means
are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its
enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must
often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it
nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule
of Law and recognition of an individual's liberty
constitutes an important component in its understanding
of security. At the end of the day they (add to) its
I want to challenge the Bush Administration's implicit
assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional
freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists.
Because it is simply not true.
In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch
an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at
terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq
as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden.
In both cases, the Administration has attacked the
In both cases they have recklessly put our country
in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and
neglecting obvious and much more important challenges
that would actually help to protect the country.
In both cases, the administration has fostered false
impressions and misled the nation with superficial,
emotional and manipulative presentations that are
not worthy of American Democracy.
In both cases they have exploited public fears for
partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold
defenders of our country while actually weakening
not strengthening America.
In both cases, they have used unprecedented secrecy
and deception in order to avoid accountability to the
Congress, the Courts, the press and the people.
Indeed, this Administration has turned the fundamental
presumption of our democracy on its head. A
government of and for the people is supposed to be
generally open to public scrutiny by the people;
while the private information of the people themselves
should be routinely protected from government intrusion.
But instead, this Administration is seeking to conduct
its work in secret even as it demands broad unfettered
access to personal information about American citizens.
Under the rubric of protecting national security, they
have obtained new powers to gather information from
citizens and to keep it secret. Yet at the same time they
themselves refuse to disclose information that is
highly relevant to the war against terrorism.
They are even arrogantly refusing to provide information
about 9/11 that is in their possession to the 9/11
Commission -- the lawful investigative body charged
with examining not only the performance of the Bush
Administration, but also the actions of the prior
Administration in which I served. The whole point is to learn all
we can about preventing future terrorist attacks,
Two days ago, the Commission was forced to issue a
subpoena to the Pentagon, which has -- disgracefully --
put Secretary Rumsfeld's desire to avoid embarrassment
ahead of the nation's need to learn how we can best
avoid future terrorist attacks. The Commission also
served notice that it will issue a subpoena to the White
House if the President continues to withhold information
essential to the investigation.
And the White House is also refusing to respond to
repeated bipartisan Congressional requests for information
about 9/11 -- even though the Congress is simply exercising
its Constitutional oversight authority. In the words
of Senator Main, 'Excessive administration secrecy
on issues related to the September 11 attacks feeds
conspiracy theories and reduces the public's confidence
In a revealing move, just three days ago, the White
House asked the Republican leadership of the Senate to
shut down the Intelligence Committee's investigation
of 9/11 based on a trivial political dispute. Apparently the
President is anxious to keep the Congress from seeing
what are said to have been clear, strong and explicit
warnings directly to him a few weeks before 9/11 that
terrorists were planning to hijack commercial airliners
and use them to attack us.
Astonishingly, the Republican Senate leadership quickly
complied with the President's request. Such
obedience and complicity in what looks like a cover-up
from the majority party in a separate and supposedly
co-equal branch of government makes it seem like a
very long time ago when a Republican Attorney General
and his deputy resigned rather than comply with an
order to fire the special prosecutor investigating Richard
In an even more brazen move, more than two years after
they rounded up over 1,200 individuals of Arab
descent, they still refuse to release the names of
the individuals they detained, even though virtually every one of
those arrested has been 'cleared' by the FBI of any
connection to terrorism and there is absolutely no national
security justification for keeping the names secret.
Yet at the same time, White House officials themselves
leaked the name of a CIA operative serving the country,
in clear violation of the law, in an effort to get at her
husband, who had angered them by disclosing that the
President had relied on forged evidence in his state of
the union address as part of his effort to convince
the country that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of
building nuclear weapons.
And even as they claim the right to see the private
bank records of every American, they are adopting a new
policy on the Freedom of Information Act that actively
encourages federal agencies to fully consider all potential
reasons for non-disclosure regardless of whether the
disclosure would be harmful. In other words, the federal
government will now actively resist complying with
ANY request for information.
Moreover, they have established a new exemption that
enables them to refuse the release to the press and the
public of important health, safety and environmental
information submitted to the government by businesses --
merely by calling it 'critical infrastructure.'
By closely guarding information about their own behavior,
they are dismantling a fundamental element of our
system of checks and balances. Because so long as
the government's actions are secret, they cannot be held
accountable. A government for the people and by the
people must be transparent to the people.
The administration is justifying the collection of
all this information by saying in effect that it will make us safer to
have it. But it is not the kind of information that
would have been of much help in preventing 9/11. However,
there was in fact a great deal of specific information
that WAS available prior to 9/11 that probably could have
been used to prevent the tragedy. A recent analysis
by the Merkle foundation, (working with data from a
software company that received venture capital from
a CIA-sponsored firm) demonstrates this point in a
In late August 2001, Nawaq Alhamzi
and Khalid Al-Midhar bought tickets to fly on American Airlines Flight
77 (which was flown into the Pentagon).
They bought the tickets using their real names. Both names were
then on a State Department/INS
watch list called TIPOFF. Both men were sought by the FBI and CIA as
suspected terrorists, in part because
they had been observed at a terrorist meeting in Malaysia.
These two passenger names would
have been exact matches when checked against the TIPOFF list. But
that would only have been the first
step. Further data checks could then have begun.
Checking for common addresses (address
information is widely available, including on the internet),
analysts would have discovered
that Salem Al-Hazmi (who also bought a seat on American 77) used the
same address as Nawaq Alhazmi.
More importantly, they could have discovered that Mohamed Atta
(American 11, North Tower of the
World Trade Center) and Marwan Al-Shehhi (United 175, South Tower
of the World Trade Center) used
the same address as Khalid Al-Midhar.
Checking for identical frequent
flier numbers, analysts would have discovered that Majed Moqed
(American 77) used the same number
With Mohamed Atta now also identified
as a possible associate of the wanted terrorist, Al-Midhar,
analysts could have added Atta's
phone numbers (also publicly available information) to their checklist.
By doing so they would have identified
five other hijackers (Fayez Ahmed, Mohand Alshehri, Wail Alsheri,
and Abdulaziz Alomari).
Closer to September 11, a further
check of passenger lists against a more innocuous INS watch list (for
expired visas) would have identified
Ahmed Alghandi. Through him, the same sort of relatively simple
correlations could have led to
identifying the remaining hijackers, who boarded United 93 (which crashed
In addition, Al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhamzi, the two who
were on the terrorist watch list, rented an apartment in
San Diego under their own names and were listed, again
under their own names, in the San Diego phone book
while the FBI was searching for them.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but what is needed
is better and more timely analysis. Simply piling up more
raw data that is almost entirely irrelevant is not
only not going to help. It may actually hurt the cause. As one FBI
agent said privately of Ashcroft: 'We're looking for
a needle in a haystack here and he (Ashcroft) is just piling
on more hay.'
In other words, the mass collecting of personal data
on hundreds of millions of people actually makes it more
difficult to protect the nation against terrorists,
so they ought to cut most of it out.
And meanwhile, the real story is that while the administration
manages to convey the impression that it is doing everything
possible to protect America, in reality it has
seriously neglected most of the measures that it could
have taken to really make our country safer.
For example, there is still no serious strategy for
domestic security that protects critical infrastructure such as
electric power lines, gas pipelines, nuclear facilities,
ports, chemical plants and the like.
They're still not checking incoming cargo carriers
for radiation. They're still skimping on protection of certain
nuclear weapons storage facilities. They're still
not hardening critical facilities that must never be soft targets for
terrorists. They're still not investing in the translators
and analysts we need to counter the growing terror threat.
The administration is still not investing in local
government training and infrastructures where they could make
the biggest difference. The first responder community
is still being shortchanged. In many cases, fire and police
still don't have the communications equipment to talk
to each other. The CDC and local hospitals are still
nowhere close to being ready for a biological weapons
The administration has still failed to address the
fundamental disorganization and rivalries of our law
enforcement, intelligence and investigative agencies.
In particular, the critical FBI-CIA coordination, while finally
improved at the top, still remains dysfunctional in
The constant violations of civil liberties promote
the false impression that these violations are necessary in
order to take every precaution against another terrorist
attack. But the simple truth is that the vast majority of the
violations have not benefited our security at all;
to the contrary, they hurt our security.
And the treatment of immigrants was probably the worst
example. This mass mistreatment actually hurt our
security in a number of important ways.
But first, let's be clear about what happened: this
was little more than a cheap and cruel political stunt by John
Ashcroft. More than 99% of the mostly Arab-background
men who were rounded up had merely overstayed
their visas or committed some other minor offense
as they tried to pursue the American dream just like most
immigrants. But they were used as extras in the Administration's
effort to give the impression that they had
caught a large number of bad guys. And many of them
were treated horribly and abusively.
Consider this example reported in depth by Anthony
'Anser Mehmood, a Pakistani who had overstayed his
visa, was arrested in New York on October 3, 2001. The
next day he was briefly questioned by FBI agents,
who said they had no further interest in him. Then he was
shackled in handcuffs, leg irons, and a belly chain
and taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Guards there put two more sets of handcuffs on him
and another set of leg irons. One threw Mehmood against
a wall. The guards forced him to run down a long ramp,
the irons cutting into his wrists and ankles. The physical
abuse was mixed with verbal taunts.
'After two weeks Mehmood was allowed to make a telephone
call to his wife. She was not at home and
Mehmood was told that he would have to wait six weeks
to try again. He first saw her, on a visit, three months
after his arrest. All that time he was kept in a windowless
cell, in solitary confinement, with two overhead
fluorescent lights on all the time. In the end he
was charged with using an invalid Social Security card. He was
deported in May 2002, nearly eight months after his
The faith tradition I share with Ashcroft includes
this teaching from Jesus: 'whatsoever you do unto the least of
these, you do unto me.'
And make no mistake: the disgraceful treatment suffered
by many of these vulnerable immigrants at the hands
of the administration has created deep resentments
and hurt the cooperation desperately needed from
immigrant communities in the U.S.and from the Security
Services of other countries.
Second, these gross violations of their rights have
seriously damaged U.S. moral authority and goodwill around
the world, and delegitimized U.S.efforts to continue
promoting Human Rights around the world. As one analyst
put it, 'We used to set the standard; now we have
lowered the bar.' And our moral authority is, after all, our
greatest source of enduring strength in the world.
And the handling of prisoners at Guantanomo has been
particularly harmful to America's image. Even England
and Australia have criticized our departure from international
law and the Geneva Convention. Sec. Rumsfeld's
handling of the captives there has been about as thoughtful
as his 'postwar' plan for Iraq.
So the mass violations of civil liberties have hurt
rather than helped. But there is yet another reason for urgency
in stopping what this administration is doing. Where
Civil Liberties are concerned, they have taken us much
farther down the road toward an intrusive, 'Big Brother'-style
government; toward the dangers
prophesized by George Orwell in his book '1984' than
anyone ever thought would be possible in the
United States of America.
And they have done it primarily by heightening and
exploiting public anxieties and apprehensions. Rather than
leading with a call to courage, this Administration
has chosen to lead us by inciting fear.
Almost eighty years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote
'Those who won our independence by revolution were
not cowards. . . . They did not exalt order at the
cost of liberty.' Those who won our independence, Brandeis
asserted, understood that 'courage [is] the secret
of liberty' and 'fear [only] breeds repression.'
Rather than defending our freedoms, this Administration
has sought to abandon them. Rather than accepting
our traditions of openness and accountability, this
Administration has opted to rule by secrecy and
unquestioned authority. Instead, its assaults on our
core democratic principles have only left us less free and
Throughout American history, what we now call Civil
Liberties have often been abused and limited during times
of war and perceived threats to security. The best
known instances include the Alien and Sedition Acts of
1798-1800, the brief suspension of habeas corpus during
the Civil War, the extreme abuses during World War
I and the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids immediately
after the war, the shameful internment of
Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the excesses
of the FBI and CIA during the Vietnam War and
social turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
But in each of these cases, the nation has recovered
its equilibrium when the war ended and absorbed the
lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and
There are reasons for concern this time around that
what we are experiencing may no longer be the first half of
a recurring cycle but rather, the beginning of something
new. For one thing, this war is predicted by the
administration to 'last for the rest of our lives.'
Others have expressed the view that over time it will begin to
resemble the 'war' against drugs -- that is, that
it will become a more or less permanent struggle that occupies
a significant part of our law enforcement and security
agenda from now on. If that is the case, then when -- if
ever does this encroachment on our freedoms die a
It is important to remember that throughout history,
the loss of civil liberties by individuals and the aggregation
of too much unchecked power in the executive go hand
in hand. They are two sides of the same coin.
A second reason to worry that what we are witnessing
is a discontinuity and not another turn of the recurring
cycle is that the new technologies of surveillance
-- long anticipated by novelists like Orwell and other prophets
of the 'Police State' -- are now more widespread than
they have ever been.
And they do have the potential for shifting the balance
of power between the apparatus of the state and the
freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and
Moreover, these technologies are being widely used
not only by the government but also by corporations and
other private entities. And that is relevant to an
assessment of the new requirements in the Patriot Act for so
many corporations -- especially in the finance industries
-- to prepare millions of reports annually for the
government on suspicious activities by their customers.
It is also relevant to the new flexibility corporations have
been given to share information with one another about
The third reason for concern is that the threat of
more terror strikes is all too real. And the potential use of
weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups does
create a new practical imperative for the speedy
exercise of discretionary power by the executive branch
-- just as the emergence of nuclear weapons and
ICBMs created a new practical imperative in the Cold
War that altered the balance of war-making responsibility
between Congress and the President.
But President Bush has stretched this new practical
imperative beyond what is healthy for our democracy.
Indeed, one of the ways he has tried to maximize his
power within the American system has been by constantly
emphasizing his role as Commander-in-Chief, far more
than any previous President -- assuming it as
often and as visibly as he can, and bringing it into
the domestic arena and conflating it with his other roles: as
head of government and head of state -- and especially
with his political role as head of the Republican Party.
Indeed, the most worrisome new factor, in my view,
is the aggressive ideological approach of the current
administration, which seems determined to use fear
as a political tool to consolidate its power and to escape
any accountability for its use. Just as unilateralism
and dominance are the guiding principles of their disastrous
approach to international relations, they are also
the guiding impulses of the administration's approach to
domestic politics. They are impatient with any constraints
on the exercise of power overseas -- whether
from our allies, the UN, or international law. And
in the same way, they are impatient with any obstacles to their
use of power at home -- whether from Congress, the
Courts, the press, or the rule of law.
Ashcroft has also authorized FBI agents to attend church
meetings, rallies, political meetings and any other
citizen activity open to the public simply on the
agents' own initiative, reversing a decades old policy that
required justification to supervisors that such infiltrations
has a provable connection to a legitimate
They have even taken steps that seem to be clearly
aimed at stifling dissent. The Bush Justice Department has
recently begun a highly disturbing criminal prosecution
of the environmental group Greenpeace because of a
non-violent direct action protest against what Greenpeace
claimed was the illegal importation of endangered
mahogany from the Amazon. Independent legal experts
and historians have said that the prosecution -- under an obscure and bizarre
1872 law against 'sailor-mongering' -- appears to be aimed at inhibiting
Greenpeace's First Amendment activities.
And at the same time they are breaking new ground by
prosecuting Greenpeace, the Bush Administration
announced just a few days ago that it is dropping
the investigations of 50 power plants for violating the Clean
Air Act -- a move that Sen. Chuck Schumer said, 'basically
announced to the power industry that it can now
pollute with impunity.'
The politicization of law enforcement in this administration
is part of their larger agenda to roll back the changes
in government policy brought about by the New Deal
and the Progressive Movement. Toward that end, they are
cutting back on Civil Rights enforcement, Women's
Rights, progressive taxation, the estate tax, access to the
courts, Medicare, and much more. And they approach
every issue as a partisan fight to the finish, even in the
areas of national security and terror.
Instead of trying to make the 'War on Terrorism' a
bipartisan cause, the Bush White House has consistently
tried to exploit it for partisan advantage. The President
goes to war verbally against terrorists in virtually every
campaign speech and fundraising dinner for his political
party. It is his main political theme. Democratic
candidates like Max Cleland in Georgiawere labeled
unpatriotic for voting differently from the White House on
obscure amendments to the Homeland Security Bill.
When the Republican leader in the House of Representatives,
Tom DeLay, was embroiled in an effort to pick
up more congressional seats in Texas by forcing a
highly unusual redistricting vote in the state senate, he was
able to track down Democratic legislators who fled
the state to prevent a quorum (and thus prevent the vote) by
enlisting the help of President Bush's new Department
of Homeland Security, as many as 13 employees of the
Federal Aviation Administration who conducted an eight-hour
search, and at least one FBI agent (though
several other agents who were asked to help refused
to do so.)
By locating the Democrats quickly with the technology
put in place for tracking terrorists, the Republicans were
able to succeed in focusing public pressure on the
weakest of the Senators and forced passage of their new
political redistricting plan. Now, thanks in part
to the efforts of three different federal agencies, Bush and DeLay
are celebrating the gain of up to seven new Republican
congressional seats in the next Congress.
The White House timing for its big push for a vote
in Congress on going to war with Iraqalso happened to
coincide exactly with the start of the fall election
campaign in September a year ago. The President's chief of
staff said the timing was chosen because 'from a marketing
point of view, you don't introduce new products in
White House political advisor Karl Rove advised Republican
candidates that their best political strategy was to
'run on the war.' And as soon as the troops
began to mobilize, the Republican National Committee distributed
yard signs throughout America saying, 'I support President
Bush and the troops' -- as if they were one
and the same.
This persistent effort to politicize the war in Iraq and
the war against terrorism for partisan advantage is
obviously harmful to the prospects for bipartisan
support of the nation's security policies. By sharp contrast,
consider the different approach that was taken by
Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the terrible days of
October 1943 when in the midst of World War II, he
faced a controversy with the potential to divide his
bipartisan coalition. He said, 'What holds us together
is the prosecution of the war. No man has been asked
to give up his convictions. That would be indecent
and improper. We are held together by something outside,
which rivets our attention. The principle that we
work on is, 'Everything for the war, whether controversial or not,
and nothing controversial that is not bona fide for
the war.' That is our position. We must also be careful that a
pretext is not made of war needs to introduce far-reaching
social or political changes by a side wind.'
Yet that is exactly what the Bush Administration is
attempting to do -- to use the war against terrorism for
partisan advantage and to introduce far reaching controversial
changes in social policy by a 'side wind,' in an
effort to consolidate its political power.
It is an approach that is deeply antithetical to the
American spirit. Respect for our President is important. But so
is respect for our people. Our founders knew -- and
our history has proven -- that freedom is best guaranteed by
a separation of powers into co-equal branches of government
within a system of checks and balances -- to prevent the unhealthy concentration
of too much power in the hands of any one person or group.
Our framers were also keenly aware that the history
of the world proves that Republics are fragile. The very hour
of America's birth in Philadelphia, when Benjamin
Franklin was asked, 'What have we got? A Republic or a
Monarchy?' he cautiously replied, 'A Republic, if
you can keep it.'
And even in the midst of our greatest testing, Lincoln
knew that our fate was tied to the larger question of
whether ANY nation so conceived could long endure.
This Administration simply does not seem to agree that
the challenge of preserving democratic freedom cannot
be met by surrendering core American values. Incredibly,
this Administration has attempted to compromise the
most precious rights that America has stood for all
over the world for more than 200 years: due process, equal
treatment under the law, the dignity of the individual,
freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom
from promiscuous government surveillance. And in the
name of security, this Administration has attempted to
relegate the Congress and the Courts to the sidelines
and replace our democratic system of checks and
balances with an unaccountable Executive. And all
the while, it has constantly angled for new ways to exploit the
sense of crisis for partisan gain and political dominance.
How dare they!
Years ago, during World War II, one of our most eloquent
Supreme Court Justices, Robert Jackson, wrote that
the President should be given the 'widest latitude'
in wartime, but he warned against the 'loose and
irresponsible invocation of war as an excuse for discharging
the Executive Branch from the rules of law that
govern our Republic in times of peace. No penance
would ever expiate the sin against free government,'
Jackson said, 'of holding that a President can escape
control of executive powers by law through assuming his
military role. Our government has ample authority
under the Constitution to take those steps which are
genuinely necessary for our security. At the same
time, our system demands that government act only on the
basis of measures that have been the subject of open
and thoughtful debate in Congress and among the
American people, and that invasions of the liberty
or equal dignity of any individual are subject to review by
courts which are open to those affected and independent
of the government which is curtailing their freedom.'
So what should be done? Well, to begin with, our country
ought to find a way to immediately stop its policy of
indefinitely detaining American citizens without charges
and without a judicial determination that their detention
Such a course of conduct is incompatible with American
traditions and values, with sacred principles of due
process of law and separation of powers.
It is no accident that our Constitution requires in
criminal prosecutions a 'speedy and public trial.' The
principles of liberty and the accountability of government,
at the heart of what makes Americaunique, require no
less. The Bush Administration's treatment of American
citizens it calls 'enemy combatants' is nothing short of
Second, foreign citizens held in Guantanamo should
be given hearings to determine their status provided for
under Article V of the Geneva Convention, a hearing
that the United Stateshas given those captured in every
war until this one, including Vietnamand the Gulf
If we don't provide this, how can we expect American
soldiers captured overseas to be treated with equal
respect? We owe this to our sons and daughters who
fight to defend freedom in Iraq, in Afghanistanand
elsewhere in the world.
Third, the President should seek congressional authorization
for the military commissions he says he intends to
use instead of civilian courts to try some of those
who are charged with violating the laws of war. Military
commissions are exceptional in American law and they
present unique dangers. The prosecutor and the judge
both work for the same man, the President of the United
States. Such commissions may be appropriate in time
of war, but they must be authorized by Congress, as
they were in World War II, and Congress must delineate
the scope of their authority. Review of their decisions
must be available in a civilian court, at least the Supreme
Court, as it was in World War II.
Next, our nation's greatness is measured by how we
treat those who are the most vulnerable. Noncitizens who
the government seeks to detain should be entitled
to some basic rights. The administration must stop abusing
the material witness statute. That statute was designed
to hold witnesses briefly before they are called to testify
before a grand jury. It has been misused by this administration
as a pretext for indefinite detention without
charge. That is simply not right.
Finally, I have studied the Patriot Act and have found
that along with its many excesses, it contains a few
needed changes in the law. And it is certainly true
that many of the worst abuses of due process and civil
liberties that are now occurring are taking place
under the color of laws and executive orders other than the
Nevertheless, I believe the Patriot Act has turned
out to be, on balance, a terrible mistake, and that it became a
kind of Tonkin Gulf Resolution conferring Congress'
blessing for this President's assault on civil liberties.
Therefore, I believe strongly that the few good features
of this law should be passed again in a new, smaller law
-- but that the Patriot Act must be repealed.
As John Adams wrote in 1780, ours is a government of
laws and not of men. What is at stake today is that
defining principle of our nation, and thus the very
nature of America. As the Supreme Court has written, 'Our
Constitution is a covenant running from the first
generation of Americans to us and then to future generations.'
The Constitution includes no wartime exception, though
its Framers knew well the reality of war. And, as Justice
Holmes reminded us shortly after World War I, the
Constitution's principles only have value if we apply them in
the difficult times as well as those where it matters
The question before us could be of no greater moment:
will we continue to live as a people under the rule of law
as embodied in our Constitution? Or will we fail future
generations, by leaving them a Constitution far
diminished from the charter of liberty we have inherited
from our forebears? Our choice is clear.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/a-criminal-escalation-of-_b_38425.html : A Criminal Escalation of An Unjust War
"It will likely take new international leadership to help fix the mess of Iraq,
because U.S. leadership has brought one calamity after another.
Unjust wars cause massive human suffering." - Jim Wallis : 20070111
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Western Americans or Central Americans ...
It's a scream, as Americans care ...
It's a song in the songster's care.
Can an anthem heal the hate ?
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A healing anthem can ..
An able ballad can ...
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