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Counterpunch, 6/11/03: "Michael Chertoff: Ashcroft's Top Gremlin"

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Bush_Eats_Beef Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 09:55 AM
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Counterpunch, 6/11/03: "Michael Chertoff: Ashcroft's Top Gremlin"

Spreading Mischief from DoJ to the Federal Bench


I have been watching John Ashcroft so long that it is getting to be a little boring. Promising to use all available means to "fight terrorism," prosecuting every violation of law "to the fullest extent of the law," desperately wanting the death penalty for every possible offense, and, according to his remarks last week before the Senate Judiciary committee, wanting laws changed to impose the death penalty for even more offenses. Ashcroft changes law and procedure by signing Executive Orders, and yes, he can get away with that unless a court stops him. So far, no court has. Some congressional members, damn few, express mild dismay at his tactics, such as locking up resident aliens after 9/11 and holding some of them for months without access to family or lawyers (or charges), then deporting many on the most technical visa violations (some of them the fault of INS, over which he has authority). It never ends-the Ashcroft watch. It only gets worse, and more frightening.

But now I have a new gremlin to watch, someone who is as intent on undermining the law and Constitution as Ashcroft. I am referring to the man behind the criminal prosecution of terrorists, Michael Chertoff. Chertoff, former chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, and a scary looking guy if ever there was one, has been elevated to the level of Court of Appeals judge--the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. What's so scary about Michael? Well, besides having no judicial experience and being a right-ring radical who does not believe in the Constitution and wants to rewrite federal law and rules of procedure on an ad hoc, case by case basis, as it suits him, nothing I guess.

A good place to look for Chertoff's legal philosophy is in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui , now taking place in the Eastern District of Virginia. Chertoff is not the prosecutor of course, Paul McNulty of the Eastern District is. But Chertoff is McNulty's boss and he is calling the shots. So Chertoff argued the government's case in the super secret hearing before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. The government is trying to block trial judge Leonie Brinkema's ruling that Moussaoui and his lawyers have access to the government's star witnesses against him. The government has refused and appealed. Judge Brinkema, who still believes in the Constitution, rightly ruled that to deny Moussaoui that access is a blatant violation of the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses.

Brinkema indicates that she will not be a party to making exceptions to the Constitution on a case-by-case basis. She, in effect, suggests that maybe Justice better take Moussaoui to Guantanamo and try him there in secret, in the military tribunals they set up. Easy there to not only try him, but convict him, and execute him . So why is the government insisting on keeping him in federal court? I have the answer, and it lies in Chertoff. Chertoff's goal, I believe, and the goal of Ashcroft and Bush in supporting this prosecution in federal court, is to subject federal trials, as they see fit, to ad hoc exemptions of whatever laws (be they constitutional, criminal code, or rules of procedure) that will suit their purposes. Their grand scheme is to ultimately cripple and dismantle the federal courts as we know them, one brick at a time.

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