Bush Issues Another Executive Order Concerning Intelligence
An AP article posted on RAW STORY this week detailed a statement made by Barack Obama to House Democrats on Tuesday that as president he “would order his attorney general to scour White House executive orders and expunge any that “trample on liberty.”” These details were apparently gained from several lawmakers present at the meeting between Barack Obama and House Democrats on Tuesday.
Days after this statement, Bush issued another executive order that was deemed an intelligence overhaul. If previous executive orders are any indication, it probably includes provisions that violate American civil liberties.
For those unaware of what an executive order is, executive orders have been issued by presidents to direct operations of executive branch agencies. Executive orders have been used by presidents since 1789 and while there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution explicitly permitting executive orders, Article II, Section 1 and Article II, Section 3, which calls on the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”, are both often cited when making the case that executive orders are constitutional.
Slate magazine offers a much more critical and comprehensive view on whether executive orders are constitutional or unconstitutional.
What does Obama’s statement mean for those who wish to see Bush policies repudiated? What are the chances that any sort of “scour”-ing is effective if Obama does indeed ask his attorney general to “expunge any”?
Executive orders issued by the Bush administration have sparked fear in the minds of many Americans (professors, academics, and non-academics) who have reason to believe such executive orders could be used to make Bush a de facto dictator since many of these orders allow Bush to side-step the other branches of government and make autocratic laws.
Since being appointed president by the Supreme Court after the Florida recount in 2000, Bush has issued over 250 executive orders. In comparison to previous presidents, this number is normal. However, the content of these executive orders have been particularly alarming to those who believe this nation should follow the Rule of Law---the U.S. Constitution.
The AP article that suggests Obama is interested in reviewing unconstitutional and unnecessary executive orders deeply undercuts the need for such a review by misrepresenting the kinds of executive orders issued. While the AP is correct that “Bush has increasingly has relied on executive orders to dictate policies without seeking congressional approval,” they are wrong to only characterize his orders as ranging “from restrictions on striped bass fishing to sanctions against Myanmar's [Burma’s] government.” There’s much more to Bush’s use of executive orders than saving striped bass or promoting human rights in Burma and certainly, Obama would not feel the need to talk about a review if these were the only kind of orders being issued.
A Brief Overview of Bush’s Executive Orders
Bush’s first executive order, the Establishment of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, is thought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union to violate the Establishment Clause since it uses tax money to fund religion.
Some point after that, Bush issued an executive order allowing for domestic spying of American citizens to commence at the NSA, a clear violation of law. This was prior to September 11th, 2001.
The events on September 11th provided the pretext for the Bush administration to establish the apparatus needed to “combat terrorism” or pursue other goals domestically and internationally.
In a matter of months, executive orders were issued that ordered the ready reserves of the armed forces to active duty, blocked property and prohibited transactions of persons who commit to threaten to commit or support terrorism, reformed critical infrastructure for the Information Age (an expansion of an order issued by Clinton already opposed by the EPIC), put together plans for a presidential task force on citizen preparedness in the “war on terrorism”, and designated Afghanistan and the airspace above a combat zone.