As the nation focuses on Sen. John McCain’s choice of running mate, President Bush has quietly moved to expand the reach of presidential power by ensuring that America remains in a state of permanent war.
Buried in a recent proposal by the Administration is a sentence that has received scant attention — and was buried itself in the very newspaper that exposed it Saturday. It is an affirmation that the United States remains at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban and “associated organizations.”
Part of a proposal for Guantanamo Bay legal detainees, the provision before Congress seeks to “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”
The New York Times page 8 placement of the article in its Saturday edition seems to downplay its importance. Such a re-affirmation of war carries broad legal implications that could imperil Americans’ civil liberties and the rights of foreign nationals for decades to come.
It was under the guise of war that President Bush claimed a legal mandate for his warrantless wiretapping program, giving the National Security Agency power to intercept calls Americans made abroad. More of this program has emerged in recent years, and it includes the surveillance of Americans’ information and exchanges online.