Thursday, 19 May 2011

Restoring the Rule of Law by Common Cause

Restoring the Rule of Law

Common Cause was formed during the constitutional crisis of the 1970s as Richard Nixon sought to rise above the rule of law. We as a nation have been facing a similar and arguably greater crisis for much of the last decade. The Executive Branch of government has systematically violated U.S. law, personal liberties, and illegally used signing statements to ignore the will of Congress. Congress was also complicit in its failure to stand up to the Executive Branch.

As a result illegal warrantless wiretaps were used to spy on Americans. Habeas Corpus was suspended. U.S. law regarding the treatment of foreign detainees was simply ignored and foreign detainees were tortured in prisons in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and “black sites” around the globe.

Now, with a different Administration in place, we are pressing to restore the rule of law and to hold accountable those in the past Administration who were architects of these systemic violations of US law and the Constitution.

In the fall of 2009, Common Cause honored five military and civilian personnel who stood up for the rule of law and worked to stop the misguided policies and practices.

Common Cause has previously taken a number of actions to hold members of the past administration accountable for abuses of executive power.

•We have urged President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate abuses of power in the last Administration. Common Cause believes such a special prosecutor must have authority to look into questions around a) torture and enhanced interrogation tactics b) warrantless wiretapping and additional surveillance systems and c) abuse of executive privilege and signing statements.

•We have called for the impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee. Bybee was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department and the chief author of the memo which authorized various forms of torture including waterboarding, slamming detainees into a wall, putting them in “stress” positions, and depriving them of sleep for up to 11 days.”

•We have called on Congress to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the past Administration's abuses of executive power. These include authorizing the use of torture in treatment of detainees, warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, and executive override of laws.

•We have organized a letter of commendation signed by senior military officials, members of Congress and former President Carter for individuals within the U.S. government who worked to stop the practice and policies of torture. These brave men and women worked to stop torture on the ground and up their respective chains of command to stop the policies which condoned torture. They did so at times at great personal risk.

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