Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Little Noticed Provision in the Patriot Act

Here’s a story to watch. I’ll let Senator Feinstein explain how the Bush brownshirts are trying another end-run around the Constitution:

“It has come to our attention that the Bush Administration is pushing out U.S. Attorneys from across the country under the cloak of secrecy and then appointing indefinite replacements without Senate confirmation. We know that this is not an isolated occurrence, but we don’t know how many U.S. Attorneys have been asked to resign – it could be two, it could be ten, it could be more. No one knows,” Senator Feinstein said.

“And, we have no idea why this is happening. The Attorney General could have legitimate reasons for asking for specific resignations, or this could be motivated by political concerns or worse, derailing on-going investigations. Again, we just don’t know.

“We believe that this use of expanded executive authority to appoint interim replacements indefinitely undermines essential constitutional checks and balances. It creates unnecessary instability in these offices and has dramatic implications for important cases currently underway. Given all that is going on with this country and the message from the American people this past election, I am surprised that the Administration would pursue a strategy to circumvent the Senate confirmation process and unsettle these important positions.

“U.S. Attorneys around the country are working on public corruption cases, terrorism cases, narcotics and drug trafficking, fighting gangs and violent crime. Which of these cases are impacted by the Attorney General’s actions has yet to be determined,” Senator Feinstein continued.

“The bottom line is this: U.S. Attorneys are handling major cases that need continuity and leadership. The bill we are introducing today would restore temporary appointment authority to the District Court in which a vacancy arises until a new nominee can be sent to the Senate for confirmation.”

And from Senator Leahy, a former prosecutor. “Political gerrymandering of these important posts is wrong and an affront to our criminal justice system. It is vital that those holding these critical positions be free from any inappropriate influence and subject to the check and balance of the confirmation process.”

In a little noticed provision included in the Patriot Act (man, am I starting to HATE that expression), the Administration’s authority to appoint interim U.S. Attorneys was greatly expanded. The law was changed so that if a vacancy arises the Attorney General may appoint a replacement for an indefinite period of time – thus completely bystepping the Senate confirmation process.

Perhaps most significant, Senators Feinstein and Leahy, have learned that the Department of Justice has asked several U.S. Attorneys from around the country to resign their positions prior to the end of their terms *without cause*. The number of U.S. Attorneys, currently or historically, who have been asked to resign their positions without cause is still unknown.

My guess is that Rove and the rest of the right wing Nazis are plotting to steal the 2008 election and are getting their people in place early on. An added bonus to the fascists is the ability to control local federal prosecutors when the administration and the army start rounding up disloyal Americans and herding them off to the torture chambers. Look for a complete repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, although the act has been dying a slow death for several years.

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