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Voter Guide To Human Rights And Civil Liberties

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Voter Election Guide to Human Rights and Civil Liberties

Find out how the candidates compare on a range of issues from torture to wrongful convictions.

By AlterNet
Posted October 11, 2008

For full story see...
Voter Election Guide to Human Rights and Civil Liberties

There's no question the Bush administration has presided over some of the most sweeping expansions of executive power in our country's history. Most of them, like the government's secret spying program, can be traced back to September 11. The terrorist attacks changed the rules of the counterterrorism game by bestowing the president with a perceived, and then actual, authority to dictate the rules. As Vice President Dick Cheney famously told the late Tim Russert days after 9/11, "A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."

The words are chilling still, especially after seeing hundreds of innocent men wrongly detained Guantanamo and the torture photos at Abu Ghraib. But it is important to remember that the expansion of executive power for counterterrorism has been a bipartisan project. Many of the programs that comprised the post-9/11 rule changes were in the works before the planes hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The CIA's extraordinary rendition program, for example, in which terror suspects are kidnapped and flown to other countries to be interrogated and tortured, actually began under the Clinton administration. George W. Bush dramatically escalated the practice in the name of the so-called "War on Terror." As Election Day nears, as the question of what the new president would do to roll back some of these powers becomes all the more pressing, it is critical to remember that as David Cole recently wrote, "Government officials do not as a rule like to give up power." It is critical that we not assume Barack Obama would necessarily roll back Bush's power grab. For those who truly wish to see change in a new administration, casting a ballot in this election should be a first, not last, step. Fortunately, whereas once it was deemed unpatriotic to criticize the Bush administration's "War on Terror," more recently, its excesses are more widely acknowledged. "Growing consensus," writes Cole, "recognizes that the Bush administration's post-9/11 actions have not only compromised some of our most fundamental principles, but have actually made us less safe."

The project to restore the Constitution and reclaim our democracy must begin the moment the next president takes office. Luckily, there are writers, thinkers and activists who have spent years working to design blueprints for how to accomplish this. The Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU, Amnesty International, and the Brennan Center for Justice are just a few critical resources that can show us how we might restore the checks and balances that once defined the United States. AlterNet has culled information from these organizations, examined the candidates' voting records and created an election guide to help you distinguish between Barack Obama's and John McCain's positions on some of the most important human rights and civil liberties issues facing us today.

For full story see...
Voter Election Guide to Human Rights and Civil Liberties

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