President Bush and other administration officials have argued that their secret wiretapping of American citizens was justified by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress in the days after 9/11. Today, one of the most respected conservative appellate judges in the nation — Micheal Luttig — delivered fresh evidence for why the administration’s use of the 9/11 Authorization cannot be trusted.
The issue before Luttig was whether to grant the Bush Administration’s request to dismiss an earlier opinion which gave the government broad authority to detain “enemy combatants” like terrorism suspect Jose Padilla.
Why would the administration want to curtail a decision that gave the President such broad authority? That’s the question that troubled the Court because the administration refused to provide an answer. Luttig’s opinion offers a clear insight into what the Administration thinks of checks and balances:
[The Bush Administration] provided no explanation as to what comprised the asserted exigency.“¦We are not in a position to ascertain “¦ because the government has not explained its decisions either publicly or to the court.“¦The government has not offered explanation.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales once hailed the Court’s prior Padilla ruling as providing the necessary presidential authority to protect “American citizens from the very kind of savage attack that took place [on 9/11].” Without a sufficient explanation for why the administration would now want to vacate that opinion, the Court was left to draw the conclusion that the administration lacks credibility on issues of executive power:
[The Bush Administration’s] actions have left not only the impression that Padilla may have been held for these years, even if justifiably, by mistake [but also] they have left the impression that the government may even have come to the belief that the principle in reliance upon which it has detained Padilla for this time”¦can, in the end, yield to expediency with little or no cost to its conduct of the war against terror “¦ And these impressions have been left, we fear, at what may ultimately prove to be substantial cost to the government’s credibility before the courts.