A View From The Handbasket

Friday, March 24, 2006
Patriot Act fails to quench Bush thirst for power
Posted by neros_fiddle at 6:18 PM
It might have seemed facetious and obvious under any other President, but when Russ Feingold went on The Daily Show and said:

I was taught that the Congress makes the laws and the President is supposed to sign them and enforce them. He's not supposed to make them up.

he was in fact going against the standard operating procedure of the Bush White House. The latest example came as Bush signed the renewal of the Patriot Act. While those concerned with civil liberties already view the Patriot Act as (at the very least) worrisome in its expanded government powers, Bush was unsatisfied.

As is his tendency, Bush followed the actual signing with the issuance of a "signing statement," which outlines how the President intends to interpret the law (which is the job of the judicial branch, but never mind):

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it "a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a "signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would "impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Translation: "Hey, thanks for the expanded powers, guys. I know you say I have to tell you when I use them, but I'm an important guy and can't always be bothered with such things. I'm gonna ignore that part of the law. In fact, if you hadn't passed this I probably would have just done whatever the hell I wanted anyway. Your little laws don't apply to me. Heh heh."

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