02 October 2008

Last Year’s Most Overlooked

The San Francisco Bay Guardian offers a long story on Sonoma State University's annual report on the "top 25 stories the mainstream media failed to report or reported poorly." These were nominated by "worldwide alternative news sources," evaluated by Project Censored, and are discussed at greater length in the new book Censored 2009.

The newspaper notes that "the stories were not necessarily overtly censored. But their controversial subjects, challenges to the status quo, or general under-the-radar subject matter might have kept them from the front pages." Another factor is the complexity of the some of these developments, which makes them tough fits for a headline-news approach.

The article discusses the top ten in Project Censored's latest volume and lists the remaining fifteen. Here's part of #8:

The Bush administration's Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice has been issuing classified legal opinions about surveillance for years. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) had access to the DOJ opinions on presidential power and had three declassified to show how the judicial branch has, in a bizarre and chilling way, assisted President Bush in circumventing its own power.

According to the three memos:

"There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it";

"The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President's authority under Article II," and

"The Department of Justice is bound by the President's legal determinations."

Or, as Whitehouse rephrased in a Dec. 7, 2007, Senate speech: "I don't have to follow my own rules, and I don't have to tell you when I'm breaking them. I get to determine what my own powers are. The Department of Justice doesn't tell me what the law is. I tell the Department of Justice what the law is."
Whitehouse concluded, "When the Congress of the United States is willing to roll over for an unprincipled President, this is where you end up." The bill in question involved surveillance of Americans traveling outside the US, but the principles those memos violate involve the basic rule of law.

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