We are lawyers in the United States of America. As such, we have all taken an oath obligating us to defend the Constitution and the rule of law…. We believe the Bush administration has committed numerous offenses against the Constitution and may have violated federal laws…. Moreover, the administration has blatantly defied congressional subpoenas, obstructing constitutional oversight …. Thus, we call on House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to launch hearings into the possibility that crimes have been committed by this administration in violation of the Constitution…. We call for the investigations to go where they must, including into the offices of the President and the Vice President.-- American Lawyers Defending the Constitution
Over a thousand American attorneys have affixed their signatures to the above statement, calling for far-ranging investigations into unconstitutional and possibly criminal activity by the current presidential administration. The statement has been signed by former Governor Mario Cuomo, and former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein.
Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a conference call with reporters in December that
"The majority of lawyers in this country understand that the Bush administration has really gone off the page of constitutional rights and off the page of fundamental rights, and is willing to push the Congress to restore those rights." Ratner said he was "dismayed" that a Democratic majority has failed "to push on key illegalities… the torture program, and now the destruction of the tapes involving the torture program; the warrantless wiretapping, the denial of habeas corpus, the secret sites/rendition program, special trials, and of course what we now know is the firing of US Attorneys scandal…. The minimal that absolutely is needed to get us back on the page of law is to have serious investigative hearings that go up the chain of command and figure out who is responsible for what."He noted that in spite of Justice Department investigations, and where Congressional committees held White House advisers Harriet Miers, Karl Rove and Josh Bolton in contempt, the leadership has failed to enforce their own actions by holding a vote on the resolutions. It does no good for congressional committees to get all puffed up and announce investigations and that subpoenas will be issued - if they are not going to follow through and make good the threat! (How did these people raise teenagers???)
"Congress has a constitutional duty to oversee the activities of the executive branch and our entire system of government is threatened when Congress simply folds before an obstinate executive," said Ratner. "Issuing contempt citations against Bolten, Miers, and Rove should be Congress's first order of business in 2008."
Another attorney on the conference call, Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, pointed out that the when the Bush administration enshrined torture as national policy, that action violated three ratified treaties, as well as the US statute outlawing torture. The illegal war of aggression in Iraq, and the ongoing occupation of that country violates the US ratified UN charter.
Also speaking with reporters was Jesselyn Raddack, a former Justice Department ethics lawyer who served as an advisor during the interrogation of John Walker Lindh (the "American Taliban"). Raddack said, "My e-mails documented my advice against interrogating Lindh without a lawyer, and concluded that the FBI committed an ethics violation when it did so anyway. Both the CIA videotapes and my e-mails were destroyed, in part, because officials were concerned that they documented controversial interrogation methods that could put agency officials in legal jeopardy…. " Raddack pointed to the Department of Justice's investigations of Enron and Arthur Anderson for obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence, and the need for the same aggressive oversight and legal proceedings in these scandals.By affixing their signatures to the document, those in our society who are charged with defending the Constitution took a solid and steady first step toward demanding the Congress follow their lead and stand up. The actions of this administration has put this country on the path to illegality, and that the United States has abandoned the moral high ground by abandoning our long-standing commitment to human rights.
Without accountability for the illegality of this administration, we face a harrowing future.
I am grateful that the guardians of the Social Contract are standing up.
I choose to stand with them.