On America’s Constitutional Crisis

Commentary
By Rosemary Piser
Associate Editor

No one can deny the impact the events of September 11, 2001 had on the United States.

While several terrorist attacks had occurred on U.S. soil prior to September 11th, the number of innocent people who lost their lives and the magnitude of the destruction were unprecedented in our history. The shock of the September 11th attacks made most of us feel that those responsible for this tragedy be found and brought to justice. Even those of us who strongly opposed the election of President Bush, rallied behind him to achieve this common goal.

Over time, we learned that the Bush Administration had bent and, at times, ignored Constitutional law, previously issued Executive Orders, and International Treaties. Individual’s rights to privacy were usurped, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were considered torture in previous wars were implemented, people were imprisoned indefinitely without formal charges being imposed. And this week, investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, provided even more shocking allegations against the Bush Administration.

According to Mr. Hersh, former Vice President Dick Cheney was in charge of a covert, executive assassination ring that reported directly to him. As a bit of history, in 1976, President Ford issued an Executive Order which stated “no employee of the United State’s government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassinations.” At the time President Ford issued this Executive Order, Mr. Cheney served as his Chief of Staff.

In recent reports which aired on MSNBC, Mr. Hersh stated that “a secret commando unit officially called the Joint Special Operation Command, reported directly to Vice President Cheney.” “Under President Bush’s authority, they have been going into countries, not talking to the Ambassador or the CIA Station Chief and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving” claims Hersh. As one would expect, the CIA has dismissed Hersh’s allegations.

Newsweek reporter, Howard Fineman, investigated Hersh’s claims and found that most in the intelligence community think very highly of Mr. Hersh. While claiming that they knew nothing specifically about this secret commando unit, Mr. Fineman’s sources opined that they “shouldn’t dismiss the claims without checking them carefully.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for the creation of a “Truth Commission” to investigate these charges against the Bush Administration. However, it is questionable if the allegations made by Seymour Hersh would fall under the scope of this Commission’s purview. Recent reports claim that Senator Leahy is getting lukewarm support for the creation of this Commission. As Senator Leahy recently stated “the moral leadership of the United States cannot be restored unless we acknowledge what has been done and see that it never happens again.”

No leader is above the law. And if power truly has the tendency to corrupt, then we must encourage our leaders to support Senator Leahy’s efforts in order to send a clear message to our current and future leaders that the freedoms established by our Founders cannot be ignored no matter what the rationale.