"On Tuesday, in a carefully choreographed photo op staged three weeks before Election Day, the President signed the Military Commissions Act, a severely flawed bill that will undercut our freedoms, assault our Constitution, and let the terrorists achieve something they could never win on the battlefield: the winnowing away of rights and freedoms that have defined America for hundreds of years.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new these days. We are currently living in a most challenging time, a time of testing, when fear is being used as weapon to curtail freedoms and the Rule of Law and to accumulate and consolidate power in the Executive Branch of government. It is a tenuous and volatile time to be sure, but this country has been through such challenges before and emerged true to her traditions of individual freedom and founding principles.
But it does concern me that at a moment when it is even more important for Americans to pull together, we are as divided as we have ever been. The echoes of Watergate, of enemies lists, and even of Joe McCarthy all resonate darkly again in Washington, as they have not for decades. With breathtaking speed, this White House has squandered our unity and the world's solidarity with America after 9/11.
Why does this matter? Because this is the context in which this Administration has directed our nation's course down a dangerous and unwise path. This President's lawyers are claiming unprecedented secrecy and demanding that he has authority to override any law when he chooses -- to spy on Americans without court approval, to torture, to ignore provisions of law he finds inconvenient -- as he has proclaimed in hundreds of presidential signing statements.
With a compliant Senate and House unwilling to exercise oversight or any measure of accountability, the courts have served as the only effective check on government power during the last few years. Three times, in three cases -- Rasul, Hamdi and Hamdan -- the Supreme Court has reminded the President that even war does not give him a blank check when it comes to the rights of Americans. At their core, these cases reiterate that the Rule of Law must be respected.
The President's response, with the acquiescence just last month of the House and Senate, was to try to silence the courts by stripping their jurisdiction from them and by quieting critics by assaulting their patriotism or their resolve against terrorism. I regret that despite our efforts to fend off the worst aspects of the recently enacted Military Commissions Act, it was adopted by the Senate with only several hours of debate and with its fundamental flaws unfixed. Included in that measure is a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and a drastic curtailment of access to the courts to check government abuses.
Habeas corpus provides a remedy against arbitrary detentions and constitutional violations. It guarantees an opportunity to go to court to prove one's innocence. If, as the President tells us, it is our freedoms that we are fighting for and that the terrorists abhor, let us not sacrifice our liberty and thereby give the terrorists a victory they could never achieve on the battlefield.
In short, we have removed the mechanism the Constitution provides to check government overreaching and lawlessness. It makes it impossible for anyone ever to challenge and prove such abuses or to restore the Rule of Law.
This is wrong. It is unconstitutional. It undermines America's core ideals. It is designed to ensure that this Administration will never again be embarrassed by a United States Supreme Court decision reviewing its unlawful abuses of power. The conservative Supreme Court, with seven of its nine members appointed by Republican Presidents, has been the only check on the Administration's lawlessness. And with this new law, the Administration used a complicit Congress to remove that final check.
During the debate, I urged the Senate to retain the Great Writ of habeas corpus and to preserve the checks and balances in our system of self-government. Our amendment failed by two votes. And now, for reasons both practical and rooted in principle, this bill has become a law that will make the struggle against terrorism more difficult for us to win. After the vote, the President and his campaign lieutenants wasted no time in launching political assaults on those of us who voted no on this bill. I regard the President's personal attack on my role as a badge of honor.
It was more than 30 years ago that I was first elected to the Senate. It, too, was a volatile time. It was in the aftermath of the Watergate scandals about money and power that took down a President. It was a time when Americans demanded accountability by using their voices and their votes to incite change.
This too is a momentous time in our nation's history. A defining moment. We are facing our generation's test, much as earlier generations of Americans faced such tests as whether to imprison Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. It took decades after that sad experience for consensus to emerge about how wrong that decision was.
With the November 7th elections rapidly approaching, I urge you to get involved. Participate in our system of self government. As history attests, you can make a difference. When we refuse to cower to fear, when we participate and work to change the course, when we fight to protect our freedoms, when we act from the strength that our democracy gives us, we can make a difference. Let us treasure, and steadfastly defend, your constitutional rights and the Rule of Law."
and- one with not so much integrity- talk about covering your ass...
hmmm... i wonder what 'wonder dick' cheney has to hide? wonder why he really doesn't want his log books opened? if he has nothing to hide, then why would he object to a little governmental surveillance? i mean he is an honest citizen who should be able to withstand a bit of scrutiny and come out ok right?