Scott Horton – a professor at Columbia Law School and writer for Harper’s – says of the Bush administration memos authorizing torture, spying, indefinite detention without charge, the use of the military within the U.S. and the suspension of free speech and press rights:
We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.
Yale law professor Jack Balkin agrees, writing that the memos promoted “reasoning which sought, in secret, to justify a theory of Presidential dictatorship.” Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley says that the memos are the “very definition of tyranny”. And former White House counsel John Dean says “Reading these memos, you’ve gotta almost conclude we had an unconstitutional dictator.”
Horton is correct that “What we know now is likely the least of it.” Just as with the economic crisis, we cannot change things – or even learn the full truth – unless we have the courage to ask the hard questions and to take appropriate actions to hold even the high and mighty to the rule of law.
“There is an obvious level of collusion here. We now know that Democratic leadership knew about the illegal surveillance program almost from its inception. Even when they were campaigning about fighting for civil liberties, they were aware of an unlawful surveillance program as well as a torture program. And ever since that came out, the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members.”
See also this.
Note: Not only did a lot of us “realize it at the time”, but many in Congress and the judiciary knew as well.