Bush's Illegal Conduct and Impeachable Offenses
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release March 5, 2006
Civil Liberties Advocates Maintain Bush's Illegal Conduct Constitutes Impeachable Offenses
Interview with Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, conducted by Scott Harris
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Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., President Bush has used the power of the White House to authorize extraordinary measures that a growing number of observers believe violate the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Controversial actions taken by the president include the institution of policies that allow for the detention of foreign nationals and U.S. citizens without charge, access to an attorney or the courts. Many prisoners held by the Pentagon and CIA are subjected to torture and abusive practices permitted by the White House. The Bush administration has also secretly adopted a policy called, "extraordinary rendition," that permits the transfer of terrorist suspects to nations that employ brutal interrogation methods illegal in the U.S. More recently, the president has admitted to monitoring the phone calls and email communication of American citizens without a court order -- illegal under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Among the groups challenging the Bush administration's actions is the Center for Constitutional Rights. In June 2004, the Center won a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed the legal rights of both U.S. and foreign citizens to challenge their military detention before a judge or other neutral decision makers. But recently, Congress has attempted to revoke that right with an amendment to an anti-torture bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. In another setback for civil liberties advocates, federal Judge David Trager recently dismissed a lawsuit brought on behalf of a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, represented by the Center, who was forcibly taken from the U.S. to Syria by American intelligence agents where he was imprisoned and tortured.
Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who outlines the criminal violations committed by the president that he believes are grounds for the impeachment of Bush. Ratner, along with his colleagues at the Center, have just written a book detailing their findings titled: "Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush."
MICHAEL RATNER: Impeachment is always difficult even if the House is controlled by the opposite party. The Constitution requires high crimes or misdemeanors. You don't have to actually have criminal acts to impeach somebody. It's acts that subvert the Constitution. Let's go through them very quickly. One is clearly you have an obligation to faithfully execute the laws as a president. He has failed to adhere to the laws and treaties prohibiting torture, failed to adhere to the laws and treaties prohibiting arbitrary and indefinite detention, failed to adhere to the laws regarding disappearances. Violation of those laws is actually criminal in the United States. We have a statute against war crimes. We have a statute against torture. That's number one.
Number two, which all your listeners I'm sure are familiar with because it's been in the press lately, is the National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping scandal. What he did was, despite a congressional law that he actually asked then got amended, despite a congressional law -- the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act -- that requires warrants for this kind of wiretapping, despite that law saying it's criminal to do any kind of wiretapping outside of that law, this president, on his own signed over the last four years, 35 separate orders -- six weeks at a time or so, authorizing warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Clearly, 100 percent, not only impeachable in the sense of indictable, but this one's a slam-dunk in terms of what should be a conviction.
All of his excuses for it are nothing but legal sand in our face. There's no question about it, a clear line. He's violated a statute of Congress, a serious one, that goes to the whole integrity of our Constitutional process and our protection of citizens.
And a third one -- that has to do with the war in Iraq. What he's done there is he's subverted the constitutional right of Congress to decide when this country goes to war. The president went to them, and fraudulently tricked them, fooled them, gave them false information, lied to Congress, lied to the American people about two issues: the weapons of mass destruction as well as Iraq and its supposed link to 9/11 and al Qaeda. Lied day after day, week after week, month after month and he led us into a war on a lie.
So you have three areas right off the bat. This book ("Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush") contains these four articles of impeachment. It contains the legal analysis written in a way that lay people can understand. And it is important for the American people to understand that this president should not be there anymore. He should be impeached.
BETWEEN THE LINES: In conclusion, Michael Ratner, it seems that so much has been degraded and diluted in our Bill of Rights and our Constitution in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, that we're now facing a moment of truth here. Whether the changes that have been wrought by the Bush administration to the nation's historical and founding documents, whether they're going to stick and whether future presidents will be "unitary executives," as a newly nominated and confirmed Supreme Court justice likes to put it. What is at stake in your view if George W. Bush is not successfully challenged in what he's -- in the view of many -- subverted in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. What can we look forward to in this country with the actions of future executives in the White House?
MICHAEL RATNER: What you're really saying, the point is right -- you have to hold this administration accountable for torture, disappearances, the Iraq war, and the spying. Unless you hold them accountable through criminal indictment, through impeachment, we will not have a democracy or republic as we know it. And I think we're close to the tipping point. That is, what's really happening in a broader way, is, we are seeing a fundamental change in our democracy and in our republic. Sometimes I call it "crossing the Rubicon," if you remember, when Caesar crossed the river with his troops that turned Rome from a republic into tyranny, and that is what we're taking about. And I don't know if we have very much time to do anything about it. This may be a fundamental change that we can reverse to a certain extent, but we're not going to reverse it all the way unless there's serious accountability against the people who have really subverted our Constitution and destroyed the republic.
BETWEEN THE LINES: In your view, what's the role of the citizen here? It's not just to read the newspapers and find out what this or that judge has decided in this or that courtroom. There is a role for citizens, is there not, in this struggle?
MICHAEL RATNER: Well, I've said this repeatedly. It's really a statement from Martin Luther King Jr. It's really saying that "tomorrow is today." If we were looking for the elements of tyranny in this country, it's here now. And so what does that tell us? That tells us that everything that we're doing -- which is not just speaking on the radio and telling about what's going on -- but everything. I mean, demonstrations, protests. Every single member of Congress who supports the (Iraq) war -- who hasn't asked for impeachment, who hasn't protested the torture and the NSA (spying) and the CIA black sites, there ought to be demonstrations in front of their offices. They ought to be followed around, there ought to be people sleeping in their offices. I mean this is not a time to be sitting with our arms folded. That I can tell you.
And the problem here is how do we get people more active? This is it. I mean, we're here. I mean, sure it can get worse. But sometimes it can get worse where you can't pull it back. So this is a time for action.
Contact the Center for Constitutional Rights by calling (212) 614-6464 or visit the Center's website at http://www.ccr-ny.org. Michael Ratner is a contributor to the new book titled, "Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush."
Visit our website at http://www.btlonline.org/btl031006.html#3hed for related articles.
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 40 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending March 10, 2006. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.