My Ship Liberty Sailed Away

More dark magic from the Bush administration detailed in the Washington Post this morning.

First there was the story: Memo: Laws Didn’t Apply to Interrogators detailing the Justice Department’s belief that the laws and constitution didn’t apply if the President says they didn’t. 

The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president’s ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.

There’s more:

The 81-page memo, which was declassified and released publicly yesterday, argues that poking, slapping or shoving detainees would not give rise to criminal liability. The document also appears to defend the use of mind-altering drugs that do not produce “an extreme effect” calculated to “cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality.”

John C. Yoo, then a deputy in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel claims in the memo “that numerous laws and treaties forbidding torture and cruel treatment should not apply to U.S. interrogations in foreign lands because of the president’s inherent wartime powers.”

He uses the “ticking time bomb” type scenario popular in television and movies to justify torture:

“If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network,” Yoo wrote. “In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.”

Yoo also claimed that to be considered illegal conduct in an interrogation, the act must “shock the conscience.”

“Whether conduct is conscience-shocking turns in part on whether it is without any justification,” Yoo wrote, explaining, for example, that it would have to be inspired by malice or sadism before it could be prosecuted.

More troubling:

Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, defended the memo in an e-mail yesterday, saying the Justice Department altered its opinions “for appearances’ sake.” He said his successors “ignored the Department’s long tradition in defending the President’s authority in wartime.”

“Far from inventing some novel interpretation of the Constitution,” Yoo wrote, “our legal advice to the President, in fact, was near boilerplate.”

In other words, our Presidents have been ignoring the Constitution for years, so it’s not a “novel interpretation” to allow the President to do exactly those things the Constitution was created to prevent him from doing.

This guy teaches law at Berkeley?!! Excuse me for the language, but what the hell has happened to this country? In addition to wondering whether something has happened to Berkeley’s once proud tradition to protest for social justice; shouldn’t a law professor know (and respect) the law?

Also in this morning’s Washington Post: Centers Tap Into Personal Databases:

Intelligence centers run by states across the country have access to personal information about millions of Americans, including unlisted cellphone numbers, insurance claims, driver’s license photographs and credit reports, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post.

One center also has access to top-secret data systems at the CIA, the document shows, though it’s not clear what information those systems contain.

These “fusion centers” created after the Sept. 11 attacks “use law enforcement analysts and sophisticated computer systems to compile, or fuse, disparate tips and clues and pass along the refined information to other agencies.”  So in addition to compiling factual databases on all of us, they’re adding into the mix “tips and clues”.  Feel secure yet?

Pennsylvania buys credit reports and uses face-recognition software to examine driver’s license photos, while analysts in Rhode Island have access to car-rental databases. In Maryland, authorities rely on a little-known data broker called Entersect, which claims it maintains 12 billion records about 98 percent of Americans.

In its online promotional material, Entersect calls itself “the silent partner to municipal, county, state, and federal justice agencies who access our databases every day to locate subjects, develop background information, secure information from a cellular or unlisted number, and much more.”

Ahh, and we’ve privatized spying on the American public.  A neo-con’s dream.

The list includes a wide variety of data resources along with software that finds patterns and displays links among people.

Data on everything you own or do, tips, clues, patterns, links. . . all for our own security.  Sleeping better yet?

(Blog title from a lyric in Bruce Sprinsgteen’s Livin’ In the Future.)

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