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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The correlation between royal edict and illegal behavior

In a small sample of laws that President Bush has issued signing statements regarding, the Government Accountability Office has found that in 6 of 19 cases, the federal agencies responsible for following the law have coincidentally decided to ignore it. This extra-legal action, done via "signing statements," happens when the President essentially tells federal agencies and departments that his executive authority allows him to void certain parts of Congressional acts. The president has issued more than 1100 such directives to federal agencies during his term, more than all prior presidents combined.

I previously blogged on the intellectual grounding of this philosophy, essentially that Mr Bush is a uniquely princely president who is simply taking up the previously unwielded - yet legitimate - executive power.

The GAO study doesn't reveal the full extent of the signing statements, because the study could only cover unclassified rulings:

In his signing statement of Oct. 18, 2005, Bush instructed the border patrol to view the "relocation provision as advisory rather than mandatory" on the assertion that only the president has the constitutional authority to decide how to deploy law enforcement officers.

None of the laws the GAO investigated included the president's most controversial claims involving national security, such as his assertion that he can set aside a torture ban and new oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act because he is the commander in chief. Such material is classified.

In other words, it's still unclear as to whether rule of law or rule of Bush is governing the War on Terror. And sadly, the success rate of the latter is a lot lower.

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