Thursday, September 11, 2003

A cynical way to honor the dead. Leave it to George W. Bush to mark the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks by seeking to take away more of our liberties. In a speech yesterday, Bush read off a few items from his Patriot Act II wish list -- shelved earlier this year because of bipartisan outrage.

His desire for an expanded death penalty is depressing but unsurprising. Withholding bail from terrorism suspects may actually not be a bad idea, although this Washington Post story warns that it could be abused to hold entirely non-violent suspects.

The big enchilada, though, would allow federal authorities to issue subpoenas without having to go to the bother of explaining themselves to judges or grand juries.

The New York Times quotes Bush making a characteristically ridiculous analogy, noting that such administrative subpoenas are used to investigate health-care fraud: "If we can use these subpoenas to catch crooked doctors, the Congress should allow law enforcement officials to use them in catching terrorists."

What he fails to mention is that the stakes are considerably higher for a terrorism suspect than for a doctor who's been goosing up his invoices to Medicare. Dr. Feelgood faces a fine, at worst; the terrorism suspect faces the death penalty.

What is it about Bush and judges anyway? You'd think he'd like them -- after all, five of them made him president. Yet he continually seeks to cut the judiciary out of any meaningful oversight role in his crusade against terrorism.

New in this week's Phoenix. Speaking of the Patriot Act, the Phoenix's Camille Dodero and I took in Attorney General John Ashcroft's protest-spiced appearance at Faneuil Hall on Tuesday. Click here for Dodero's story, and here for mine.

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