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Kristen Breitweiser

Kristen Breitweiser

Posted January 13, 2009 | 08:31 AM (EST)

Dialing Back Dick: It's Time to Look Back and Scale Back the Enhanced Powers of the Bush Oval Office

For many, like me, torture is illegal. It is not effective in garnering credible information that keeps us safe from terrorism. It ruins our reputation in the world. It foments anti-American sentiment and violence. It actually creates new terrorists by furnishing recruiting propaganda for groups like al-Qaeda.

Similar arguments can be made about the many other tactics, techniques, pieces of legislation, and foreign policy agendas used in the past 8 years.(i.e. warrantless wiretapping, suspension of habeas corpus, Patriot Act I and II, preemptive war based on unsubstantiated and fabricated information, etc.) All of which were carried out and rammed down our throats in the name of "keeping us safe" from the terrorists.

Yes, for 8 years we were told to trust the likes of Dick Cheney who hissed that torture, warrantless wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus, the Patriot Act, etc. had all been necessary tools in our nation's arsenal against terrorism. Torture, warrantless wiretapping, the Patriot Act -- they all saved lives and prevented another 9/11.


Let's see the proof.

Now that we have a Democrat President and Congress, perhaps it is time to show proof to the American people about just how effective Bush tactics really were in keeping us safe. No roadblocks should exist for a Congress and President who want to right the wrongs and clear up the abuses of the past 8 years. So let's start with transparency, de-classification, and lots of accountability if need be. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Specifically, what is the proof that torture kept us safe for 8 years? Let's see the documents of the interviews detailing and revealing the threats and imminent plots that were averted.

And if State Secrets is to be wielded as the excuse to not release such information, it should be strenuously argued that any secret information gathered years ago is now out of date and no longer operational or tactical in nature. Clearly, any sources and methods mentioned 7 years ago would already have been capitalized upon and out of circulation. In other words, national security should no longer be an excuse for blocking the free flow of such information.

So let's throw the facts on the table and release the records. Wouldn't you like to see and judge what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalsheibh, bin Attash, and the many others had to say? Wouldn't it be interesting to assess whether the information gathered and relied upon should have been deemed credible and reliable in nature? Because what if it wasn't?

What if every piece of information gathered through torture was absolute bunk? Have you considered the ramifications?

Admittedly, we cannot go back and erase what happened from history but we can learn from what happened. In particular, the Bush torture practices and policies warrant serious public examination--an examination where accountability should flow to those who issued and/or crafted the Orders not those who merely followed along. Because that is the best way to learn lessons from the past and ensure that similar mistakes are not made by future Administrations.

Remember one of VP Cheney's key goals back in 2001 was to strengthen the Office of the President. And so he did for 8 long years leaving our Constitution and country in shambles. Well, now it's time to dial back the works of Dick Cheney.

Recall the eloquent speeches made by the Democrats while in the minority. They cried out against Cheney's power grab and spoke of the danger that such absolute power posed to the precious balance of powers established by our Founding Fathers.

Now that the Democrats are in control, they must dismantle the absolute, unchecked power transferred to the Oval Office during the Bush years. Cheney's work needs to be undone. Because such boundless Executive power is dangerous in any Administration--and not just the outwardly reckless, agenda-driven Republican ones. We must not forget that.

No, we must not simply "move forward."

Hearing that sentiment took me back to President Bush, VP Cheney, and their Republican counterparts soon after the 9/11 attacks when many of us were looking for a healthy examination into pre-9/11 intelligence failures and were refused. At the time many Americans were too blinded by their fear to dissent.

Today, as we await the historical inauguration of Barack Obama, let's not be blinded by our hope. All failures--especially those of leadership-- must be examined. People must be held accountable. And, transparency must become the norm.