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Saturday, January 06, 2007


Bending the Law - G.W. Bush and His Signing Statements

Invasion of Privacy

Who will watch the watchers?
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will watch the watchers?)"
-- Juvenal
Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Roman rhetorician and satirical poet (1st to 2nd cent. A.D.)

As he did many times in the past, on December 20, 2006, President Bush resorted to a signing statement to subvert the constitutional rights of citizens: "......asserting the authority to open U.S. mail without judicial warrants in emergencies or foreign intelligence cases, prompting warnings yesterday from Democrats and privacy advocates that the administration is attempting to circumvent legal restrictions on its powers."

Washington Post

A "signing statement" attached to a postal reform bill on Dec. 20 says the Bush administration "shall construe" a section of that law to allow the opening of sealed mail to protect life, guard against hazardous materials or conduct "physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection."


This is an issue which cries out for Democrats to take a stand on. It is time to end the usurping of of power by President Bush. A small ruckus isn't enough. What is needed is a loud outcry.

The latest statement caused a small ruckus on Capitol Hill yesterday just as Democrats were taking control of Congress. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the statement a "last-minute, irregular and unauthorized reinterpretation of a duly passed law."

Sharp limits have been placed on the government's power to open mail since the 1970s, when a congressional committee investigating abuses found that, for three decades, the CIA and FBI had illegally opened hundreds of thousands of pieces of U.S. mail. Among the targets were "large numbers of American dissidents, including those who challenged the condition of racial minorities and those who opposed the war in Vietnam," according to a report by the Senate panel, known as the Church committee. Also surveilled was "the mail of Senators, Congressmen, journalists, businessmen, and even a Presidential candidate," the report said.

During his tenure, Bush has made plentiful use of signing statements, which are issued along with a president's signature on legislation. Although previous presidents used them as guidance for the executive branch, Bush has offered revised interpretations of laws on constitutional or national security grounds in some of his statements.

See: (1) Report by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe "Examples of the president's signing statements", April 30, 2006.
(2) Wikipedia : Signing Statement
(3) FindLaw: The Problem with Presidential Signing Statements: Their Use and Misuse by the Bush Administration

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