Attorney General Michael Mukasey is back on the Hill today, testifying to the House Judiciary Committee. Paul Kiel is covering it at TPMmuckraker.I sense a pattern here. We just had the CIA admitting that yes, they do waterboarding, and yes, they will do it again. And we now learn that Bush himself wanted them to come out and say that:
So far, he's dropped two big bombshells. DOJ will not be investigating:
(1) whether the waterboarding, now admitted to by the White House, was a crime; or
(2) whether the Administration's warrantless wiretapping was illegal.
His rationale? Both programs had been signed off on in advance as legal by the Justice Department.
Cynics may argue that those aren't bombshells at all, that the Bush Administration would never investigate itself in these matters. Perhaps so. But this is a case where cynicism is itself dangerous.
We have now the Attorney General of the United States telling Congress that it's not against the law for the President to violate the law if his own Department of Justice says it's not.
It is as brazen a defense of the unitary executive as anything put forward by the Administration in the last seven years, and it comes from an attorney general who was supposed to be not just a more professional, but a more moderate, version of Alberto Gonzales (Thanks to Democrats like Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer for caving on the Mukasey nomination.).
President Bush has now laid down his most aggressive challenge to the very constitutional authority of Congress. It is a naked assertion of executive power. The founders would have called it tyrannical. His cards are now all on the table. This is no bluff.
"The president authorized Gen. Hayden to say what he said in the testimony yesterday," White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters.We've also had an admission about the existence of a secret Camp 7 at Gitmo. We've got continued maneuvering for an attack on Iran...
And then there's the US media. Karl Rove's move to FOX says it all, doesn't it? Nobody is touching Sibel Edmonds allegations, even though the UK Sunday Times has run a whole series of explosive articles. The US media remains almost fully complicit, and so of course is Congress (who voted for Mukasey even though he refused to condemn waterboarding).
So... I am beginning to think that Bush and Cheney have decided to just lay it all on the line and roll the dice. And if that's what's happening, then I don't think the Bush cabal is going to go quietly in November. There's too much to lose, and they are sitting on too much power.
John McCain is not one of their inner circle (and I don't think he can win anyway). And these psychos in the Oval Office today are not going to just hand the keys to a President Obama, or Hillary, and walk away.
This could get ugly (uglier)...
Meanwhile, the case of Khalid El-Masri just got a lot more interesting. A DOJ official is due to testify in the Senate next week. The Bush administration has already admitted they grabbed the wrong guy, and then used state secrets privilege to bury the story. Will the DOJ invoke these newly-claimed levels of executive privilege to bury the story forever? If so, it means the USA believes it can pick up any citizen of any country, anywhere in the world, do anything they like to him or her, and never be held accountable.
Somehow I don't think the rest of the world is going to be very comfortable with that.
And just a little reminder that this blog was about the only place in the world, at one stage, where you could even read anything about El-Masri's case. He had to work his way through German and Spanish courts even to be acknowledged by the US DOJ, and the media did their damndest to ignore this incredible story every step of the way.