(Ripley 2002) There is also an increasing presence of Middle Eastern expats within the metropolitan Detroit and its suburbs. Bush genuinely, believed, according to his supporters that ideologically driven Islamic youth might perform terrorist's acts from within despite any efforts by the Transportation Safety Authorities to ensure that no terrorists came into the country from without.
This gave rise to the first critic of President Bush, invoking the American Defense Act to allow security officials to perform security related wire taps on telephones and electronic surveillance on computer activities of suspected terrorists. This was in direct violations of the FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act). The violations involved non-compliance with FISA. The FISA rule involves the ordering the surveillance of suspects only after such a surveillance is court-ordered. (Apuzzo 2007) the uniqueness of the FISA construct is that for security reasons the court does not have to be informed of the identity of the suspect who will be placed under surveillance. The Bush administration circumvented FISA by creating the TSP (Terrorist Surveillance Plan) which they used to perform electronic surveillance without going to the court -- secret or otherwise. One of the few incidents which illustrates overreaching by the Bush Administration involved acting Attorney General James Comey. James Comey was in the position of Attorney General temporarily for John Ashcroft. Realizing the potential illegality of the TSP, James Comey refused to allow TSP to go on. Andrew Card who disagreed with Comey and wanted to ensure that TSP went through ignored Comey and actually visited John Ashcroft in the intensive care unit of the hospital where he was recovering from surgery. Presumably, Card wanted to take advantage of the still quite ill Ashcroft who was sedated. Comey, realizing this, attempted to race Card to the hospital to get to Ashcroft first. Ashcroft, to his credit, despite his illness, sided with Comey and refused to sign on to TSP. The issue at hand the attempt at circumventing the system of checks and balances that is the cornerstone of a democratic republic. The only reason Bush and the White House pulled back on TSP is because the entire department of Justice threatened to resign. Bush's White House came under intense criticism for this overreach in his role as unitary executive
After the War on Terror in the wastelands of Afghanistan and then in Iraq resulted in the arrest of many Al Qaeda operatives and others from the Taliban in Afghanistan. One of the reasons why it is difficult to contain these operatives is because they have no geographical boundaries. It is conceivable that operatives might arise in the Islamic dominated countries in Africa, in the refugee slums of Palestine, in Indonesia, in Iran, Iraq other countries in the Middle East, some Islamic parts of the former Soviet Republic or even Hindu dominated India, which has seen its own share of terrorist activities. Indeed, all the terrorists from September 11 were either Egyptians or Saudi Arabian youth. All that is required is a need to help the Islamic cause against any threats from other religions or the West, the threats perceived or real. In large part, Osama Bin Laden remains at large because Islamic people see it as a privilege to provide this terrorist succor. Even Saddam Hussein was captured and his sons were identified in their hideouts and killed only because a close relative informed the U.S.-led allied forces of their whereabouts. Information had to be obtained from detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facilities in Cuba; conventional interrogation techniques were deemed clearly not sufficient. Therefore techniques such as water-boarding were resorted too. Water boarding is a technique has been used for many decades. The effects of water boarding are not permanent. The detainee is covered with a thick cloth which is then kept continuously wet. The person subjected to water boarded goes through the same discomfiture as when drowning. This fear of death which transcends the pain from torture (which some are trained to deal with) causes the people to provide the information sought. Al Qaeda operatives of course were in a chain of command that was significantly low. This means they needlessly underwent torture because they could not provide the information sought.
Critics of President Bush sought to get the detainees relief by identifying them the same status as prisoners within the U.S. Penal System since they were on U.S. soil. They were also identified as being covered under the Geneva Convention in regards dealing with prisoners of war. But the White House retorted by indicating that since the detainees could not be protected under the Geneva Convention because they could not be identified as soldiers belonging to any one country. Indeed, they could not be identified even as soldiers. (Shane, Johnston and Risen 2007) More importantly however, crucial and unusual punishment, such as water boarding was illegal under U.S. law irrespective of who was being subjected to that punishment. Water boarding however, continued and the Bush White House supported the notion indicating that this was justified given the circumstances. The U.S. And indeed, the rest of the world were fighting the kind of war that had never been fought before. This circumventing of the U.S. law to permit this was considered an abuse of the unitary executive powers. The same arguments were furthered by the Bush White House, which in a losing effort, sought to defend certain undisciplined members of the U.S. armed forces at the Abu Ghraib prisons, where they used humiliating techniques against the prisoners.
The third instance of this perceived overreach of Bush was the number of signing statements. Between Reagan and Clinton, there were more than 300 signing statements, which was more than the all the presidents in the history of the country. Perhaps pushed by unique events of the time, Bush on the other hand, within eight years of presidency signed more than 400 such statements. A signing statement involves a writ that challenges the constitutionality of a certain issue. This is a clear case of overreaching.
Johnsen, who has written a comprehensive article titled "What can a President Do? & #8230;" illustrates very clearly the three instances of where Bush clearly overreached: circumventing FISA, the issues of prisoner torture and signing statements. (Johnsen 2008) However, she cautions that perhaps some of Bush's energies were driven by the unique circumstances faced by the country. He also cautions against the rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum. Sidney Blumenthal, a former operative of Bill Clinton, who was supposed to have been one of his chief strategists but also one who helped with the cover up of proprietarial issues that plagued the Clinton administration, has written a highly inflammatory piece excoriating Bush for the torture at Guantanamo Bay in the Guardian, a British newspaper that is notoriously liberal and leftist. These sorts of column are politically motivated and do not help the issues.
Also the lines that distinguish between a reaction to an unwieldy situation and what is clearly overreaching are often blurred. The best benchmark that any president can have before making a decision that involves unitary executive powers is to keep the Constitution within context and decide how the Constitution might be violated.
After the problems with Vietnam and Watergate, the resignation of President Nixon brought the power of the presidency of the United States in jeopardy. One aspect of the Bush/Cheney doctrine was to put strength back into the presidency for posterity. Critics would not agree that use of unitary executive privilege as it occurred between 2001 and 2008 qualify.
Apuzzo, Mark. "Secretive Spy Court Refuses to Reveal Wiretap Rules,." Neward Star Ledger 2007.