This will undoubtedly be buried by the sudden resignation of Paul McNulty, Gonzo’s No 2 in Justice and the man who seems increasingly to be at the center of the USA firing scandal, due to what he calls “‘financial realities’ brought on by ‘college-age children and two decades of public service'” (of course that’s the reason), but there was another resignation today, and it’s potentially more significant than McNulty’s expected bail-out.
Lanny Davis, the only Democrat on the five-member White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (you can find brief profiles of the other Board members here), released his letter of resignation to the press, citing what amounts to a charge that the WH watchdog group with Congressionally-mandated responsibility for protecting civil rights has instead been subverting them for months, abandoning its oversight role to see itself instead as “wholly part of the White House staff and political structure.”
In recent months, Davis has had numerous clashes with fellow board members and White House officials over what he saw as administration attempts to control the panel’s agenda and edit its public statements, according to board members who asked not to be identified talking about internal matters. He also cited in his letters criticisms by the former co-chairs of the September 11 commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, that the board had interpreted its mandate too narrowly and was refusing to investigate issues such as the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world.
Davis’s frustration reached a peak last month when White House lawyers engaged in what he described in his letter as “substantial” edits of the board’s annual report to Congress. Davis charged that a majority of the board sought to remove an extensive discussion of recent findings by the Justice Department’s inspector general of FBI abuses in the uses of so-called “national security letters” to obtain personal data on U.S. citizens without a court order. He also charged that the White House counsel’s office wanted to strike language stating that the panel planned to investigate complaints from civil liberties groups that the Justice Department had improperly used a “material witness statute” to lock up terror suspects for lengthy periods of time without charging them with any crimes.
That White House Counsel is, of course, Fred Fielding, who cut his teeth on president-protecting in the Nixon WH during Watergate, refined his skills in the Reagan WH during Iran/Contra, and is currently behind the claim that every conceivable piece of paper or electronic transmission that ever passed through a WH office is protected from Congressional scrutiny by “executive privilege”, even the Secret Service-kept logs recording who went in and out. Mr Fielding’s definition of the ground covered by executive privilege is so broad, so all-encompassing, that if Bush’s tame SCOTUS were to uphold it, no president would ever again have to divulge anything or comply with Congressional subpoenas in any way, shape, or form. Ever.
In Fielding’s view, the royal prerogatives of a King and the executive privileges of a president are synonymous.