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Congratulations to the editors of Newday, who have seen through the con artistry played by the Gonzales Justice Department, with remarkable success so far, on the American judiciary. In an editorial yesterday, here’s how they sum it up:
The administration has various rationales to bar the courthouse door. Last month a federal appeals court dismissed a suit by lawyers and journalists, saying they lacked standing to sue because they couldn’t show they’d been harmed. The reason? They couldn’t prove their calls had been monitored. Only the National Security Agency knows for sure, and it won’t say, insisting that coming clean would compromise national security.
In two other cases, argued Wednesday, the administration took a slightly different tack. It asserted a state secrets privilege, insisting that the suits must be dismissed because continuing them would reveal details of secret surveillance, and that would harm national security. In one of those suits, AT&T customers claim the government was improperly given access to their phone records. In the other, a Muslim charity says classified documents, mistakenly handed over by the government, prove their calls were monitored.
So here’s a summary of the artful dodge: If the government won’t confirm it monitored your calls, the case has to be dismissed. If you can prove you were targeted, the government can withhold evidence and the case has to be dismissed. If you already have the evidence you need, the government can bar its use and the case has to be dismissed. The administration shouldn’t be allowed to duck accountability for what could be ongoing violations of the rights of millions of Americans.
Right now the country needs a judiciary with a healthy respect for the Constitution and the limited powers theory of governance that our Founding Fathers left us and some healthy skepticism for the Bush Administration’s claims of secrecy surrounding its every maneuver—and particularly those which skirt the law. The administration tells us “trust us” and “the king can do no wrong.” Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison… and even Alexander Hamilton had a very forceful kind of response to that sort of argument. Let’s not forget it.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”