Putting Posse Comitatus aside, too

PUTTING POSSE COMITATUS ASIDE, TOO…. It’s hardly a new revelation that Bush administration officials believed they could ignore practically any law while pursuing national security interests, but even now, the list of laws they felt comfortable ignoring keeps getting longer.

Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials.

Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six, and declare them enemy combatants. […]

A decision to dispatch troops into the streets to make arrests has few precedents in American history, as both the Constitution and subsequent laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.

The Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable” searches and seizures without probable cause. And the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity.

During at least one high-level meeting, Cheney, David Addington, and their allies cited a memo from John Yoo, which suggested pursuit of national security goals overrode practically everything, including the Fourth Amendment and Posse Comitatus

Sticking up for the basics of the rule of law and American civics were Condoleezza Rice, Michael Chertoff, and FBI Director Robert Mueller, and thankfully, then-President Bush sided with them instead of Cheney. The NYT noted that the president “bristled at the prospect of troops descending on an American suburb to arrest terrorism suspects.”

Bush ordered the FBI to make the arrests in September 2002, and the Lackawanna Six later pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges.

Why would Cheney oppose sending the FBI to go get the suspected bad guys? Because he feared the evidence may not be compelling enough to justify an arrest and conviction. It was better, he said, to have the military take the Lackawanna Six into custody, declare them enemy combatants, and not worry about due process or meeting legal standards.