Rule of Law Letter to Elected Officials
Originally posted on February 18, 2009
Letter to Every Member of Congress and President Obama:
Calling for a Permanent End to Torture and a
Permanent Restoration of the Rule of Law
February 18, 2009
When someone asks “What did you do?,” you can look back with pride at having taken a stand. You added your name to the call for an end to torture and restoration of the rule of law and today, February 18, 2009, we sent letters to every member of Congress and to President Obama, adding your name with the over 7,100 others who have demanded change.
Dear President Obama and Members of Congress:
I am among millions of Americans concerned about the undermining of the rule of law, violations of our Constitution, domestic laws, and treaty obligations, and the damage inflicted these past several years on our nation’s system of checks and balances.
Please make it a priority, within the first six months of the Obama Administration, to:
1. Limit the application of the “state secrets” doctrine in order that the courts will once again provide a meaningful check on abuses of power and violations of law by members of the Executive Branch.
2. Make clear what process must be followed before any US treaty obligations are violated or terminated by any member of the Executive branch or by Congress. Congress should also reaffirm its commitment to treaty obligations forbidding aggressive war and torture and repeal the Military Commissions Act.
3. Limit the effect of “signing statements” by enacting legislation that (1) instructs the courts they are not to consider signing statements when determining legislative history; (2) prohibits the President from issuing any statement that purports to limit any part of the legislation as being advisory or that purports to assert any authority by the President to determine the scope or applicability of the legislation; and (3) provides that no one can rely upon signing statements as a defense for a violation of the law.
4. Authorize, designate, and assign special prosecutors to investigate and prosecute violations of the law for involvement in felonious warrantless wiretapping, torture, and kidnappings of people in the so-called “extraordinary rendition ” program.
5. Reassert Congress’s vital constitutional role and forbid, by a criminal statute with severe penalties, any attack against another nation, except in cases of actual or imminent attack of the US by that nation or as permitted under the United Nations Charter and the Constitution, absent explicit authorization by Congress.
6. Appoint a select committee, similar to the Church and Ervin Committees, or a non-partisan Truth Commission, charged with investigating illegal conduct or other abuses of power by the Bush Administration, disclosing such misconduct to the American people, and making recommendations concerning reforms that will prevent or deter similar misconduct in the future.
7. Repeal the Military Commissions Act.
Taking these steps will be a vital contribution to the restoration of the rule of law, our constitutional democracy, and the system of checks and balances essential to protect against abuses of Executive power.
[The names of over 7,100 signatories were included in the letter sent to every member of Congress and President Obama.]