We Came an Inch from Martial Law, Bush Justice Department Memos Reveal

By Matthew Rothschild |

It turns out that some of our most paranoid fears about the Bush Administration had a basis in reality.

The Bush Justice Department, if you can call it that, issued legal opinions in late 2001 asserting that the President had the authority to use the military within the US against suspected terrorists, and that he could use the military to barge into your home without a warrant.

“The warrant and probable cause requirements . . . are unsuited to the demands of wartime and the military necessity to successfully prosecute a war against an enemy,” said an October 23, 2001, memo.

The authors were John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general, and Robert Delahunty, who was special counsel at the Justice Department. And they sent the memo to Alberto Gonzales, then the counsel to the President.

Domestic eavesdropping without a warrant was also OK, according to Bush lawyers at Justice.

They also said the President could unilaterally abrogate treaties, and that Congress had no say-so over the treatment of detainees.

Yoo and Delahunty clearly contemplated waging war here at home.

“Efforts to fight terrorism may require not only the usual wartime regulations of domestic affairs, but also military actions that have normally occurred abroad,” said the Yoo-Delahunty memo.

It contemplated using the U.S. military in the United States for “attacking civilian targets, such as apartment buildings, offices, or ships where suspected terrorists were thought to be; and employing electronic surveillance methods more powerful and sophisticated than those available to law enforcement agencies.” And it recognized that these actions could be “involving as they might American citizens.”

It said the decision to use the military this way lies entirely in the President’s hands. “It also bears emphasizing again that it rests within the President’s discretion to determine when certain circumstances . . . justify using the military to intervene.”

Yoo and Delahunty also proposed shelving the First Amendment.

“First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully,” they wrote.

This was an “Everything Must Go” fire sale from the Bill of Rights.

And we’re just lucky we somehow managed to escape without getting too singed.

Now Senator Leahy is proposing a Truth Commission.

We need that–and prosecutions–if we are to find out not only just how close we came to a fascist government over the last eight years but also how to prevent that slide in the future.