Friday, December 12, 2008

Feingold Calls On Obama To "Restore Rule of Law" In America

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), as a key member of both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, has been battling the Bush administration for many years over the litany of Constitutional abuses that will be George W. Bush's legacy. And this week, the Wisconsin Senator called on Barack Obama to use his opportunity as president to "… take concrete steps to restore the rule of law in this country."

Feingold sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday making this plea and outlining steps he believes are necessary to make that happen.

“In light of this recent history, I believe that one of the most important things that you can do as President is to take concrete steps to restore the rule of law in this country – that is, to return to the White House respect for an appropriate separation and balance of powers among the branches, for the President’s important but not paramount place in our constitutional system of government, for the laws that Congress writes and the importance of its oversight functions, and for the judiciary’s crucial role in interpreting the law,” Feingold wrote.

Feingold then offered recommendations for action in four key areas – the separation of powers, excessive government secrecy, detention and interrogation policy, and domestic surveillance and privacy. He also provided additional points made during a Judiciary Committee hearing he chaired in September called “Restoring the Rule of Law.”

Those recommendations include:
  • Closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay, which the President-elect already supports.
  • Banning torture and establishing a single, government-wide standard of humane detainee treatment
  • Conducting a comprehensive review of Office of Legal Counsel opinions and repudiating or revising those that overstate executive authority
  • Supporting significant legislative changes to the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act
  • Cooperating with congressional oversight, including providing full information to intelligence committees
  • Establishing presumptions of openness and disclosure in making decisions on the classification of information and responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
Feingold said that Obama should make this such a priority that he even mentions it prominently in his inaugural address on January 20th, saying that the days of the Executive Branch running with no oversight must end and that "all three branches of government must be engaged in the process of restoring the rule of law, but the role of the President is particularly important because turning back the excesses of the Bush Administration may be seen in some respects as contrary to the institutional interests of the presidency."

"That is why it is all the more important that you clearly and unequivocally renounce, early in your tenure, President Bush’s extreme claims of executive authority," wrote Feingold in his letter. "Indeed, stating this position in your inaugural address would affirm to the nation, and the world, that respect for the rule of law has returned to the Oval Office. I urge you to take the opportunity in your first speech as President to make a strong and clear statement of your intention to restore the rule of law in our country."

And Feingold wrapped it up by stating something that he has been saying for years and that Obama said repeatedly on the campaign trail -- that we can have freedom and security at the same time.

Said Feingold: "As I know you recognize, we can protect our national security – in fact, we can do it more effectively – without trampling on the rights of Americans or the rule of law."