Dictatorship: What Those Secret Memos Tell Us About the Bush White House

We continue to learn about how far Bush, Cheney, and their team of "creative" lawyers were willing to push the legal envelope.
Bush, Cheney, and their team of "creative" lawyers are, to the benefit of the rule of law and our constitutional system, no longer running the executive branch. But we continue to learn about just how far these guys were willing to push the legal envelope.

The secret legal opinions issued by Bush administration lawyers after the Sept. 11 attacks included assertions that the president could use the nation's military within the United States to combat terrorism suspects and to conduct raids without obtaining search warrants.

That opinion was among nine that were disclosed publicly for the first time Monday by the Justice Department, in what the Obama administration portrayed as a step toward greater transparency.

The opinions reflected a broad interpretation of presidential authority, asserting as well that the president could unilaterally abrogate foreign treaties, ignore any guidance from Congress in dealing with detainees suspected of terrorism, and conduct a program of domestic eavesdropping without warrants.

We've had some sense of this before, but the newly-released materials point to legal excesses that were "far greater than previously known," and when taken together, are "the clearest illustration to date of the broad definition of presidential power approved by government lawyers in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks."

And by "broad definition," we're talking about Bush's authority to do pretty much anything he pleased.

Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."
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