Man with a plan
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has a seven-point plan to repair the U.S. Constitution after the Bush years. High Road for Human Rights, Anderson’s nonprofit, is gathering signatures on the proposal before presenting it to Congress and the Obama administration.
1. “STATE SECRETS” DOCTRINE. The courts tossed out nearly all lawsuits brought by war-on-terror suspects held in Guantanamo and secret CIA prisons after the Bush administration said letting the cases go to trial would reveal “state secrets.” High Road wants Congress to pass a law limiting the use of that doctrine. President Obama will have to decide where he stands on the issue soon. A San Francisco judge has rejected the state-secrets argument and is letting the lawsuit of one war-on-terror detainee go forward.
2. VIOLATIONS AND TERMINATION OF TREATY OBLIGATIONS. Fighting the war on terror, Bush administration lawyers ruled the Geneva conventions and treaties the United States signed against torture didn’t apply to them. High Road wants new rules that dictate a clear process to be followed before the president, or Congress, breaks future treaty obligations.
3. “SIGNING STATEMENTS.” After photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison hit the press, Congress passed a law forbidding official torture. President Bush signed it, then added a note that said the law didn’t apply to him. High Road wants Congress to pass a law limiting the effect of such presidential “signing statements.”
4. ACCOUNTABILITY FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE LAW. High Road wants special prosecutors appointed to investigate Bush-era crimes, particularly in the areas of wiretapping phones, torture and so-called “extraordinary rendition” in which war-on-terror suspects were “kidnapped,” then flown overseas to secret CIA prisons outside the jurisdiction of U.S. laws. A recent report from the House Judiciary Committee asks Obama’s Justice Department for special prosecutors.
5. CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT OF A CONGRESSIONAL DECLARATION OF WAR. High Road wants Congress to insist on an explicit declaration of war before the United States next attacks a foreign country, “except in cases of actual or imminent attack of the U.S. by that nation.”
6. DISCLOSURE OF THE TRUTH AND PREVENTION OF FUTURE ABUSES. High Road is urging a probe of the Bush era, either by a nonpartisan “truth commission” or congressional committee similar to the Church and Ervin committees of the 1970s. Those committees investigated past presidential abuses of the FBI and CIA and led to laws against the government spying on Americans. Those anti-spying laws appear to have been set aside by the Bush administration. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., recently filed a bill calling for such a probe.
7. REPEAL THE MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT. In 2006, Congress passed a law that officially gave to the president many of the powers the Bush administration had already asserted for itself for the war on terror. The Military Commissions Act said the president wasn´t bound by Geneva Convention limits on prisoner treatment, and gave immunity to U.S. employees for war crimes. The act also tried to make military trials of Guantanamo suspects square with the Constitution by saying foreigners named as “enemy combatants” by the president couldn’t ask U.S. courts to intervene in their cases and could be held indefinitely without charges. The Supreme Court rejected that part of the law, saying Guantanamo suspects must be given something like a fair trial.