Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Richard C. Gross THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, urged President-elect Barack Obama in a letter Wednesday to "restore of the rule of law" and appropriate separation of powers among the branches of government following eight years of the Bush administration.
Mr. Feingold acted on recommendations made during a September hearing he chaired of the Senate Judiciary Committees Constitution Subcommittee. About 40 historians, law professors and representatives of advocacy organizations testified, the senator said in a statement.
Among those testifying, it said, was John Podesta, the head of Mr. Obama's transition team.
Some Democrats have protested that some of the measures undertaken by the Bush administration since 9/11 to ensure the protection of national security have been too extreme. President Bush has been criticized for concentrating too much power in the White House.
"The countless abusive policies of the past eight years and the extreme legal theories on which they were based have left our nation weaker and our constitutional framework in a precarious position," Mr. Feingold wrote.
"In light of this recent history . . . one of the most important things that you can do as president is to take concrete steps to restore the rule of law in this country -- that is, to return to the White House respect for an appropriate separation and balance of powers among the branches," the letter said.
Mr. Feingold further wrote that "we must ensure that the Bush administration's views of executive supremacy do not become so ingrained in our system of government that they become the 'new normal.'"
Mr. Feingold urged Mr. Obama to adopt the following recommendations:
-- Close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
-- Ban torture and establish a single, government-wide standard of humane detainee treatment.
-- Review the opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel and repudiate or revise those that "overstate executive authority."
-- Support significant legislative changes to the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act.
-- Cooperate with congressional oversight, including providing full information to intelligence committees.
-- Establish presumptions of openness and disclosure in deciding the classification of information and responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr. Obama has said that one of his first acts as president would be to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
"As I know you recognize," Mr. Feingold wrote, "we can protect our national security -- in fact, we can do it more effectively -- without trampling on the rights of Americans or the rule of law."