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Center's Ratner Says New Bush Memos Amount to "Treason"

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Saying that calls for prosecution of Bush officials can never let up, the director of the staid and respectable Center for Constitutional Rights, who is a legal scholar, has said that the legal arguments made in the infamous Yoo memos amount to treason against the nation's institutions, similar to the "Fuhrer's law" of Nazi Germany.

Naomi Wolf, a non-lawyer, mused before her interview with Michael Ratner:

The memos [revealed in early March] lay the legal groundwork for the president to send the military to wage war against U.S. citizens; take them from their homes to Navy brigs without trial and keep them forever; close down the First Amendment; and invade whatever country he chooses without regard to any treaty or objection by Congress...The memos could not be clearer: This was the legal groundwork of an attempted coup. I expected massive front page headlines from the revelation that these memos exited. Almost nothing. I was shocked.

Wolf then sought out the Center for Constitutional Rights' Michael Ratner to understand what she was missing.  The Yoo memos seemed to say that the president's authority as commander in chief is not bound by any law, any treaty, or the protections of free speech, due process and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. "The First, Fourth and Fifth amendments -- gone," she wrote.  

Legal expert Michal Ratner agreed:

What [the Yoo memos] actually mean is that the president can order the military to operate in the U.S. and to operate without constitutional restrictions. They -- the military --  can pick you or me up in the U.S. for any reason and without any legal process. They would not have any restrictions on entering your house to search it, or to seize you. They can put you into a brig without any due process or going to court. (That's the Fourth and Fifth amendments.)

Who has suspended the law this way in the past? It is like a Caesar's law in Rome; a Mussolini's law in Italy; a Fuhrer's law in Germany; a Stalin's law in the Soviet Union. It is right down the line. It is enforcing the will of the dictator through the military.

Ratner says the biggest hint we had that this was coming was when the military picked up Jose Padilla, going to a civilian prison and "snatching" him off to a brig under the orders of the president.  

During his 3 1/2 year military detention, Padilla's lawyers said he was subject to hooding, stress positions, assaults, and threats of imminent execution.  

Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor reported:

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"Padilla's cell measured nine feet by seven feet. The windows were covered over. There was a toilet and sink. The steel bunk was missing its mattress. He had no pillow. No sheet. No clock. No calendar. No radio. No television. No telephone calls. No visitors. Even Padilla's lawyer was prevented from seeing him for nearly two years....[Padilla's captors] punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds."

     Padilla also stated that he was "injected with a 'truth serum,' a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.  Deprived of any view of the outside world, with the lights always kept on, Padilla had no way of knowing what time of day it was or what day of the week.

      Padilla's attorney Andrew Patel said, "I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla's temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of 'a piece of furniture.' "  Patel described how it was difficult to work with Padilla in his defense, because "Mr. Padilla remains unsure if I and the other attorneys working on his case are actually his attorneys or another component of the government's interrogation scheme."

Padilla was found guilty based on the testimony of a terrorist suspect whose interrogation tapes were among those ordered destroyed by CIA chief General Michael Hayden.
 Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan and an editor of the Wall Street Journal, criticized the jury's verdict in the Padilla case as having "overthrown" the Constitution and doing far more damage to the US' liberty than any terrorist could.

Ratner states "We need the deterrence of prosecution so this does not happen again."

He said in the interview with Wolf:

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Treason need not involve another state. Aaron Burr was tried for treason. The authority given by these memos that could be used to raid every congressional office, raid and search every home, detain tens of thousands, would certainly fit a definition of treason.
This would be the president making war against the institutions of the United States.

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on the (more...)

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