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.[…]
Former officials said the 2002 debate arose partly from Justice Department concerns that there might not be enough evidence to arrest and successfully prosecute the suspects in Lackawanna. Mr. Cheney, the officials said, had argued that the administration would need a lower threshold of evidence to declare them enemy combatants and keep them in military custody. [continued…]
This new report today from The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and David Johnston reveals an entirely unsurprising though still important event: in 2002, Dick Cheney and David Addington urged that U.S. military troops be used to arrest and detain American citizens, inside the U.S., who were suspected of involvement with Al Qaeda. That was done pursuant to a previously released DOJ memo (.pdf) authored by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty, addressed to Alberto Gonzales, dated October 23, 2001, and chillingly entitled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S.” That Memo had concluded that the President had authority to deploy the U.S. military against American citizens on U.S. soil. Far worse, it asserted that in exercising that power, the President could not bound either by Congressional statutes prohibiting such use (such as the Posse Comitatus Act) or even by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which — the Memo concluded — was “inapplicable” to what it called “domestic military operations.”
Though it received very little press attention, it is not hyperbole to observe that this October 23 Memo was one of the most significant events in American politics in the last several decades, because it explicitly declared the U.S. Constitution — the Bill of Rights — inoperative inside the U.S., as applied to U.S. citizens. [continued…]
Last month, police and the FBI arrested four Newburgh men on charges that they had plotted to bomb synagogues in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx and fire a missile at a military jet.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly held press conferences at the synagogues to reassure New Yorkers about their safety. During Kelly’s remarks, it was startling to hear the commissioner refer to al-Qaeda by name, if only to say that the four purported home-grown terrorists had no ties to Osama Bin Laden’s organization.
As more details emerged, however, the less the four defendants sounded like men with the skills to plan a sophisticated terror plot. They were small-time crooks, felons with long criminal records whose previous activities revolved around smoking marijuana and playing video games. One defendant, Laguerre Payen, was arrested in a crack house surrounded by bottles of his own urine; his lawyer describes him as “mildly retarded.”
It seemed fairly astounding that, for a full calendar year, such a group could remain interested in and plan anything more complex than a backyard barbecue, let alone a multipronged paramilitary assault, as the indictment against them alleged. [continued…]