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Archive for March 2nd, 2009

Justice Department memos from 2001 are seen in Washington Monday, March 2, 2009. The Justice Department on Monday released a long-secret legal document from 2001 in which the Bush administration claimed the military could search and seize terror suspects in the United States without warrants. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Justice Department memos from 2001 are seen in Washington Monday, March 2, 2009. The Justice Department on Monday released a long-secret legal document from 2001 in which the Bush administration claimed the military could search and seize terror suspects in the United States without warrants. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Secret Bush Memo Authorizing Warrantless Seizure Of ‘Terror Suspects’ Released

DEVLIN BARRETT and MATT APUZZO | March 2, 2009 07:50 PM EST | AP

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration threw open the curtain on years of Bush-era secrets Monday, revealing anti-terror memos that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers and divulging that the CIA destroyed nearly 100 videotapes of interrogations and other treatment of terror suspects.

The Justice Department released nine legal opinions showing that, following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration determined that certain constitutional rights would not apply during the coming fight. Within two weeks, government lawyers were already discussing ways to wiretap U.S. conversations without warrants.

The Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions, but the documents themselves had been closely held. By releasing them, President Barack Obama continued a house-cleaning of the previous administration’s most contentious policies.

“Too often over the past decade, the fight against terrorism has been viewed as a zero-sum battle with our civil liberties,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech a few hours before the documents were released. “Not only is that school of thought misguided, I fear that in actuality it does more harm than good.”

The Obama administration also acknowledged in court documents Monday that the CIA destroyed 92 videos involving terror suspects, including interrogations _ far more than had been known. Congressional Democrats and other critics have charged that some of the harsh interrogation techniques amounted to torture, a contention President George W. Bush and other Bush officials rejected.

The new administration pledged on Monday to begin turning over documents related to the videos to a federal judge and to make as much information public as possible.

The legal memos written by the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel show a government grappling with how to wage war on terrorism in a fast-changing world. The conclusion, reiterated in page after page of documents, was that the president had broad authority to set aside constitutional rights.

Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted search and seizure, for instance, did not apply in the United States as long as the president was combatting terrorism, the Justice Department said in an Oct. 23, 2001, memo.

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Mercenary King Erik Prince Resigns as Blackwater CEO

Jeremy Scahill

Posted March 2, 2009 | 12:34 PM (EST

Originally posted at AlterNet.

The company formerly known as Blackwater continues its mission to bury its tarnished reputation and soldier on. Early this morning, Blackwater founder Erik Prince released a brief statement announcing he is stepping down as CEO of the infamous mercenary firm he started in 1997. A press release from the company — which last month renamed itself “Xe” — said Prince “will now focus his efforts on a private equity venture unrelated to the company.”

In a personal message sent to his employees and clients, Prince sought to cast his departure as a natural part of the firm’s ongoing evolution. “As many of you know, because we focus on continually improving our business that Xe is in the process of a comprehensive restructuring,” he wrote. “It is with pride in our many accomplishments and confidence in Xe’s future that I announce my resignation as the company’s Chief Executive Officer.”

Prince’s resignation could be seen as a public formality in what has been a dramatic attempt to scrub all public vestiges of Blackwater, given that he remains chairman and sole owner of the network of companies now operating under the Xe umbrella. But it’s clear the firm has been thrown into turmoil in recent months. As the Xe statement says, “These appointments follow the addition and departures of several other key personnel. Recent departures from the company include its former Vice Chairman, Chief Operating Officer, President, and Executive Vice President.” Joseph Yorio, an ex-Army Special Forces officer and former Vice President of the international shipping company DHL was announced as the new Xe president — a somewhat humorous development, given Prince’s fondness for describing Blackwater as the “FedEx of the U.S. national security apparatus.” Meanwhile, Danielle Esposito, a longtime Blackwater employee, was named Xe’s new Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President.

The rebranding of Blackwater and its attempts to hide its former self have been downright crude. The company’s domestic training centers, which some refer to as private military bases, are now simply labeled “U.S. Training Center.” Gone is the sexy black-and-red logo featuring a bear paw in a sniper-scope; it has been replaced by a nondescript, rather amateurish sketch of an American Eagle. The company website has been revamped and scaled down.

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Limbaugh Misquotes Constitution During CPAC Speech

HuffPo- Sam Stein

March 2, 2009 10:09 AM

During his much-discussed keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, Rush Limbaugh accused Barack Obama of pursuing the “bastardization of the U.S. Constitution.”

It was one of the more politically acidic notes in a speech defined by rambling political assaults. But the conservative talk show host wasn’t exactly standing on firm footing. Just a few moments earlier he himself had actually — not theoretically — “bastardized” the Constitution by confusing it with the Declaration of Independence.

From Limbaugh’s speech:

We want every American to be the best he or she chooses to be. We recognize that we are all individuals. We love and revere our founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. [Applause] We believe that the preamble to the Constitution contains an inarguable truth that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life. [Applause] Liberty, Freedom. [Applause] And the pursuit of happiness. [Applause] Those of you watching at home may wonder why this is being applauded. We conservatives think all three are under assault. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you.

Limbaugh, it seems, meant to say “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” which, of course, is in the Declaration of Independence. Just to be sure, however, the Constitutional Accountability Center compared his remarks to the Constitution’s preamble, and didn’t find a match.

Here is the Constitution’s Preamble: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

In the end, of course, Limbaugh’s gaffe was just that: a rhetorical hiccup in an otherwise long (the speech went on for 90 minutes) and brash address. Still, in the process of accusing Obama for a lack of reverence of the Constitution, it would have undoubtedly served him better to have properly recognized the Constitution himself.

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