Ring Them Bells:Closing in on the Crawford Crimelord

For years -- years -- we have bashed and banged and clanged the bell on this theme over and over here at Empire Burlesque, and in the Moscow Times, and CounterPunch and anywhere else they'd let us come in with the hammer: George W. Bush and his minions are committing crimes -- actual crimes, clear-cut violations of American and international law, genuine offenses in the most literal sense, not just metaphorical transgressions against some moral law or political ideal. They are criminals by their own admission, have even boasted about their offenses: the unprovoked invasion of Iraq and all the putrid horror that has followed in its wake; the kidnapping of captives off streets all over the world and their "rendition" to secret prisons and foreign torture chambers; the "extrajudicial killing" -- i.e., murder -- of uncharged, untried individuals, including at least one American citizen; "taking the gloves off" on torture techniques that were carefully considered, in detail, in formal legal documents seen and signed by the highest government officials; and on and on.

None of this has been hidden. Almost everything I've written about the crimes of the Bush Administration has been taken from articles in the mainstream media -- articles which very often were laudatory in tone, not "exposes" or muckraking pieces. (Although there have been many excellent examples of the latter -- again, published in venues of broad national reach, available for anyone who cared to see.)

Now this theme -- the criminal nature of the junta that rules America -- is very slowly creeping into mainstream discourse. Bush's brazen violations of the crystal-clear FISA laws against warrantless wiretapping of American citizens -- laid bare once more in the courageous ruling by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor -- is forcing a few Establishment bastions to give voice to some of the truth-tellers of our time.

One of these is Jonathan Turley, whose recent Chicago Tribune article has been glossed by the ever-excellent Glenn Greenwald (who also ties this to the larger issue of absolute unaccountability by the nation's political and media elite in regard to the war crime in Iraq). Give an ear to them here, in Greenwald's "Rules of Polite Washington Discourse." Excerpts:

Jonathan Turley ...puts his finger on why there is so much desire to focus on the "quality" of Judge Taylor's written opinion while all but ignoring the fact that a federal court just declared that the President of the United States has been repeatedly violating federal criminal laws, and still is:

The far more difficult question is the implication of Taylor's ruling. If this court is upheld or other courts follow suit, it will leave us with a most unpleasant issue that Democrats and Republicans alike have sought to avoid.

Here it is: If this program is unlawful, federal law expressly makes the ordering of surveillance under the program a federal felony. That would mean that the president could be guilty of no fewer than 30 felonies in office. Moreover, it is not only illegal for a president to order such surveillance, it is illegal for other government officials to carry out such an order.

For people working in government, this opinion may lead to some collar tugging. If Taylor's decision is upheld or other courts reject the program, will the president promise to pardon those he ordered to carry out unlawful surveillance? The question of the president's possible criminal acts has long been the pig in the parlor that polite people in Congress refused to acknowledge.

...But the FISA ruling from Judge Taylor is of a much different nature. The question being decided by NSA cases is, effectively, whether George Bush and his top officials, along with those at the NSA following his orders by eavesdropping without judicial approval, are guilty of felonies. As Professor Turley notes, very few people actually believe the answer to that question is difficult to discern:

While Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales insists that the legal authority for the program is clear and filed a notice of appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, few experts outside of the Bush administration support the program. To the contrary, federal law seems perfectly clear in prohibiting warrantless surveillance.

This has been the most bizarre part of the NSA scandal all along: the President got caught red-handed violating an extremely clear law -- he admitted to engaging in the very behavior which that law says is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine -- and yet official Washington (the political and pundit classes) simply decided to pretend that wasn't the case.

...The Justice Department lawyers who approved this illegal program, the political officials who ordered it, and the journalists who defended it (and have enabled this presidency) are all part of the same circle, and the very suggestion that any of this is actually criminal -- even though it is all being done in violation of the crystal clear criminal law -- is just too unpleasant, too unruly, too disruptive to admit...

There's much more, especially on the unaccountability issue; read the whole thing.