Issue a Mass Pardon
By Brent Budowsky
27/07/08 "Smirking Chimp" -- - Jul 26 2008 --- Before leaving
office George W. Bush will issue a mass pardon, the largest collection of
presidential pardons in American history. Bush will pardon himself, Vice
President Cheney, and a long list of officials involved in torture,
eavesdropping, destruction of evidence, the CIA leak case and a range of
As George Bush signs the pardons and boards the helicopter to depart Washington
as his presidency finally ends, even then, he and those pardoned will worry
about the statute of limitations.
There is an important point to this, often not recognized in official
Washington during the Bush years, where the unthinkable becomes a way of life,
and acts have been done that have never been done by an American president or
Torture violates international law, domestic law, statutory law, customary law,
American law, European law — the list goes on.
Eavesdropping without court order violates a statute, FISA, that includes
severe criminal penalties. If the courts ultimately conclude that these laws
were broken, as I predict they ultimately will, considering the number of
individual violations, and the penalties for each violation, the potential
sentencing liability for anyone convicted would be huge.
On the destruction of evidence, disappearing e-mails, claims of executive
privilege that I predict will be clearly rejected by the Supreme Court after
Bush has departed, arguably false testimony to Congress, attempts to cover up
actions that violate the law, the list, again, goes on.
There will be a huge legal debate about the ability of a president to issue
pardons so sweeping in their language that they cover all these potential areas
of legal liability, and very possibly, it cannot be done.
As we approach the election, leaks will increase as they did prior to the 2006
election, from within the administration, about these matters and others. Legal
scholars will debate the legality of a mass pardon.
Congress should pursue every pending and possible legal challenge to claims of
executive privilege so completely untenable under the law that even some
conservative Supreme Court justices will refuse to uphold them, as conservative
justices joined liberals ruling against Richard M. Nixon.
I predict a series of historic Supreme Court cases that will defeat most of the
Bush executive privilege claims and permanently end attempts for royalist
interpretations of the law that the Bush years embody.
The fact that Bush attempted to seize power in ways that negate the legislative
and judicial branches of government, and the fact that Congress was not heroic
in defending its rightful place in the separation of powers, do not change the
fact that what is illegal is illegal.
This is not merely a liberal issue. There are many authentic conservatives,
true Barry Goldwater Republicans, genuine libertarians, honorable strict
constructionist conservative jurists and legal scholars who agree entirely that
on occasions George Bush has attempted and at times executed seizures of
executive power that violate the American Constitution and American statutes.
Get ready for mass pardons.
Get ready for the long-held precedents of American law to be ultimately if
belatedly upheld as spurious claims of executive privilege, to be be rejected
even by some conservative justices of the Supreme Court.
Get ready for a long-overdue debate that has barely begun and will be triggered
by the mass pardons that will be the last sorry act of the presidency of George
Because it will be legally almost impossible to issue mass pardons so sweeping
and universal they would cover every possible offense, get ready for the words
"statute of limitations" to enter our public dialogue by January of
2009 as a new president assumes office and the Bush years, finally, are over.
Brent Budowsky served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd
Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of
the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served as Legislative Director to
Congressman Bill Alexander, then Chief Deputy Whip, House of Representatives.
Currently a member of the International Advisory Council of the Intelligence
Summit. Left goverment in 1990 for marketing and public affairs business
including major corporate entertainment and talent management. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org