The Bush administration’s assault on some of the founding principles of American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.
Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration continue to exact a high toll in human lives, America’s global reputation and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal challenges of these practices.
It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its humanity and the rule of law.
Today we’re offering a list — which, sadly, is
hardly exhaustive — of things that need to be done to reverse
the unwise and lawless policies of President Bush and Vice
President Dick Cheney.
• Our list starts with (these) sic fundamental tasks:
Restore Habeas Corpus
Stop Illegal Spying
Ban Torture, Really
Close the C.I.A. Prisons
Account for ‘Ghost Prisoners’
Ban Extraordinary Rendition
Tighten the Definition of Combatant
Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively
Ban Tainted Evidence
Ban Secret Evidence
Better Define ‘Classified’ Evidence
Respect the Right to Counsel
• Beyond all these huge tasks, Congress should halt the federal government’s race to classify documents to avoid public scrutiny — 15.6 million in 2005, nearly double the 2001 number. It should also reverse the grievous harm this administration has done to the Freedom of Information Act by encouraging agencies to reject requests for documents whenever possible. Congress should curtail F.B.I. spying on nonviolent antiwar groups and revisit parts of the Patriot Act that allow this practice.
The United States should apologize to a Canadian citizen and a German citizen, both innocent, who were kidnapped and tortured by American agents.
Oh yes, and it is time to close the Guantánamo camp. It is a despicable symbol of the abuses committed by this administration (with Congress’s complicity) in the name of fighting terrorism.