David Morgan / Reuters & Associated Press – 2006-11-22 08:04:10
Chertoff Says US Threatened by International Law
David Morgan / Reuters
WASHINGTON (November 17, 2006) — A top Bush administration official on Friday said the European Union, the United Nations and other international entities increasingly are using international law to challenge US powers to reject treaties and protect itself from attack.
“International law is being used as a rhetorical weapon against us,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, a former federal appellate judge, said in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative policy group.
Chertoff cited members of the European Parliament in particular as harboring an “increasingly activist, left-wing and even elitist philosophy of law” at odds with American practices and interests.
But he said the same pattern could be seen in the policies of the United Nations and other international bodies.
“What we see here is a vision of international law that if taken aggressively would literally strike at the heart of some of our basic fundamental principals — separation of powers, respect for the Senate’s ability to ratify treaties and … reject treaties,” Chertoff said.
President George W. Bush’s administration has been repeatedly criticized by rights groups and foreign governments, including some allies, over some of the tactics it has used in Washington’s war on terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Critics have aimed at Bush’s policies such as the indefinite detention of foreign terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
Chertoff said the US Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan that required the United States to treat detainees under Geneva Conventions standards showed international law’s entry into the US domain.
He also pointed to negotiations leading up to last month’s interim agreement between the United States and the European Union on sharing personal information about trans-Atlantic airline passengers.
The Bush administration sought addresses, credit card details, phone numbers and other details for US-bound European air passengers as a way to determine whether any should be turned back from entering the United States as a security risk.
“Some in the European Parliament argued that the fact the information was derived from Europeans coming to the US meant that we should be forced in the United States to let Europe supervise and set the terms of how we make use of that information,” Chertoff said.
“Fortunately, we resolved it in a way that does address the principal concerns that we have,” he added.
Chertoff also cited press reports of European privacy activists trying to constrain US use of financial information obtained in Washington’s war on terrorism.
“There are increasing efforts to control our use of information in our own country,” he said.
Some EU activists, he said, believe national sovereignty is weakening under an avalanche of international laws.
“It (is) a chilling vision of where we could go, given the current developments in international and transnational law,” Chertoff said.
Gonzales Attacks Ruling against Domestic Spying
WASHINGTON (November 18, 2006) — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales contended Saturday that some critics of the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program were defining freedom in a way that presents a “grave threat” to US security.
Gonzales was the second administration official in two days to attack a federal judge’s ruling last August that the program was unconstitutional. Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday called th
e decision “an indefensible act of judicial overreaching.”
Gonzales, in remarks prepared for delivery at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said that some see the program as on the verge of stifling freedom rather that protecting the country.
“But this view is shortsighted,” he said. “Its definition of freedom — one utterly divorced from civic responsibility — is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people.”
Gonzales and Cheney’s attacks on the court order came as the administration was urging the lame-duck Congress to approve legislation authorizing the warrantless surveillance. The bill’s chances are in doubt, however, because of Democratic opposition in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to end debate and vote.
The Bush administration has long argued that its warrantless surveillance program focuses on international calls involving suspected terrorists. It dismisses charges that it is an illegal tool because it bypasses federal law requiring a judge-issued warrant for such eavesdropping.
In August, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit struck down the warrantless surveillance program, saying it violated the rights to free speech and privacy and the constitutional separation of powers. She was the first judge to rule on the legality of the program, which is operated by the National Security Agency.
Bush and other administration officials sharply criticized the ruling, which the government appealed. They argued that the program is legal under the president’s constitutional powers and saved lives by helping to disrupt terrorist plots.
Cheney, in an address Friday to the Federalist Society, said Taylor’s order was troubling because it was “tying the hands of the president of the United States in the conduct of a war.” He added: “And this is a matter entirely outside the competence of the judiciary.”
In his prepared remarks, Gonzales dismissed as “myth” the charge that civil liberties were being sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. He defended the USA Patriot Act and the handling of detainees at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“To achieve victory at the cost of eroding civil liberties would not really be a victory. We cannot change the core identity of our nation and claim success,” he said.
Gonzales served in the Air Force from 1973 to 1975 and attended the Air Force Academy between 1975 and 1977. He transferred to Rice University and completed a bachelor’s degree there in 1979.
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