Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good Night and Good Luck

Shakesville on the New Executive Order via Ezra Klein
Under this order, the Executive Branch can ’starve out’ a person by completely freezing their assets, without trial, without the need to present evidence, and without appeal. The Treasury Secretary has sole discretion to determine who is in violation of this order, in ‘consultation’ with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State. That last part is verbiage; Treasury has the power per this order. Even better, the Secretary of Treasury has the explicit authority to delegate this decision to any flunky or flunkies of his choice per Sec. 6. This order applies to all persons within the United States. If Treasury declares that a person is a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to commit violence in Iraq, or a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to support violence in Iraq in any way, or to have assisted in any way a person who is a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to do so, all their assets are to be immediately frozen.

It is a further violation of the order to make a donation to such a person whose assets have been frozen. (I was being literal when I said ’starve’ them. Such a person would have no legal means of acquiring food, clothing, or shelter. They couldn’t buy it with frozen assets, nor accept it as a gift, and stealing is already illegal.) [See here for the statute on which Bush relies to issue this order.]

Section 5 says that these actions will be taken by the government without any notice to the person whose assets are to be frozen. I see no procedure listed for any appeal from this action to anyone. In theory, a person could argue the matter in federal court. However, merely donating legal services to represent such a person would apparently be a violation of Sec. 1(b). The odds of an unrepresented person successfully challenging an executive order, when said order will be defended by a phalanx of Justice Department lawyers, are low.

Is that scary enough for you? When I first read it, I checked the site to make sure it wasn’t a spoof of some sort, a la the Onion. I may have missed something, but I hit the high points.

Oh, I probably don’t need to mention the obvious, but the lack of due process, lack of evidentiary requirements, and the vagueness surrounding exactly what constitutes a violation make this order a totalitarian dream. And there is no end to the ‘daisy chain’ it creates, either. If you donate money to a person whose assets were frozen because they gave money to a person who was declared to be a ‘significant risk’ to commit or support violence in Iraq, then you are subject to the order, subject to have your assets frozen, and anyone helping you thereafter gets the same treatment. This order is far in excess of the presidential orders from 20+ years ago that were circulated to make us afraid of the government. (FYI, there’ve been executive orders since at least Kennedy that declares the feds are in charge of everything in case of nuclear attack and such.)

Of course, the administration has demonstrated a) the willingness to use the levers of government for political means (see: Goodling, Monica) and b) an absolute indifference to public opinion, and, on a semi-related note, the belief that they don't have to enforce laws that inconvenience them or force them to answer uncomfortable questions

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