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The Case for Establishing a Truth Commission for Bush's Torture and Spying Crew

On Capitol Hill, debate has begun over forming a truth commission to shed light on the Bush administration’s secret and illegal terror polices.

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But what we see in these memos—and I recommend them to everybody, because you read these, you are seeing essentially the legal underpinnings of a police state or a dictatorship of the president. There’s no doubt about it. That’s what it is, and it’s not theoretical. These were the actual building blocks of what we had in this country for eight years, in which—and the one you mentioned when we opened, Juan, that what happened here was one of these memos said the military could operate in the United States, and operate in the United States despite the Posse Comitatus law, which prohibits the military from operating in the United States. And when it operates—this is really extraordinary—they can arrest and detain—“arrest” is not the right word—kidnap anyone they want and send them to a detention place anywhere in the world without any kind of law.

And then, on top of that, they can disregard the First Amendment. So this conversation we’re having right now, they could say, “Well, this is harmful to the national security of the United States”—that’s what these memos say—“this type of conversation is harmful, and we can ban this conversation.” And then they could put the military at the door to the firehouse and come in and say the Fourth Amendment, the one that protects us against unlawful searches, that the military could walk in here, search all of us and see if we have anything they don’t like on us. So, no First Amendment, no Fourth Amendment, no Fifth Amendment—essentially, the end of the Constitution and 225 years of constitutional history. In the face of this, this kind of memo, we’re seeing Leahy say, “Let’s see what kind of mistakes were made.”

Goodman: Why was Posse Comitatus first put into effect, first passed?

Ratner: You know, that’s a good question. I don’t remember, Amy. It’s unfortunate I don’t remember. But it had to do—it goes back to our constitutional—the original convention, I mean, the original Constitution, that one of the biggest fears is that you don’t want the military operating in a democracy, because the military is not trained in constitutional rights. They’re trained to go in and kill and destroy, and that’s what they do in a country. And so, it was really—it came out of really the amendments that said you can’t quarter soldiers in your houses, all those kind—that kind of push that we don’t want the military enforcing law in this country.

Goodman: Go on through the memos that have now been released.

Ratner: Well, I said that the key memo is this one that we’ve been discussing, this one that the military can operate in the United States. I mean, as I said, that’s really—you know, I used to talk about Fuehrer’s law when I talked about the President. Everybody thought I’m exaggerating. Fuehrer’s law is what the Fuehrer, Hitler, said; that’s the law. And what these memos do is essentially say that what Bush says is the law. So that’s memo number one.

There’s another memo here on extraordinary rendition. We’ve discussed it here before. That’s where you send people overseas for torture. You nab them or grab them in Pakistan or Afghanistan, send them to another country where it’s more likely than not where they’ll be tortured. And these memos go through why that may—the argument they make is that that’s not against the law, that the Convention Against Torture doesn’t apply and the anti-torture statute, you know, can be avoided by not having the intent to carry out torture. So they essentially authorize sending people—sending people for torture.

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