U.S. Supreme Court: Chertoff Is Above The Law

Today the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff’s all encompassing powers to waive federal laws to build a border fence, effectively ending the case.

The Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court. Their argument was a simple one: Chertoff, a political appointee who is not directly accountable to American voters, should not have the authority to bypass almost any federal law that he chooses.

On April 1, Chertoff waived 37 federal laws ranging from the Antiquities Act to the Native American Grave Repatriation Act.

Apparently, the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t have a problem with Chertoff’s all encompassing powers. It was a sad day for the rule of law.

Matt Clark, the southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, has been working on the lawsuit for more than a year. He was especially crushed that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t even deem it necessary to explain why it declined to hear the case.

“I’ve worked for many years on some very hard environmental battles,” says Clark. “But I can say this is the first time I’ve ever been really really depressed about how our government is handling things.”

Congress gave Chertoff the power to steamroll the legal system through an obscure provision in the Real ID act, the gift that keeps on giving. Not only does it grant Chertoff unprecedented power, his waivers cannot be challenged in court. The only ray of light in a very dark judicial tunnel is a constitutional challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is under no obligation to hear the case.

Both Defenders and Sierra Club say their focus is now Congress (don’t hold your breath). “Our hope is that Congress will pass something to rectify its mistake,” Clark says. “We need accountability, transparency and a government who listens to its people.”

There is also a similar challenge in a federal court in El Paso. “We still insist that this is a violation of the separation of powers and that it’s unconstitutional,” says Oliver Bernstein of the Sierra Club. The club is not involved in the El Paso case but is watching with interest. “We don’t see any reason the outcome [of the El Paso case] would be redetermined,” says Bernstein.

Clark says Defenders of Wildlife will continue to push Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva’s legislation to repeal Chertoff’s waiver authority. To date, 49 congressional members have signed on to Grijalva’s bill doing so, including every single border legislator with the exception of two. No Republicans have signed on as of yet, however.

Clark says he watches the progress of the border fence daily in Arizona. Just the other day he visited the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where Chertoff is erecting an 18-foot steel wall and destroying the natural environment in the process. Building in the desert will still be easier than the logistical challenges that await them in Texas. “They have no idea what they are up against, particularly in South Texas,” says Bernstein.

At $4 million a mile, taxpayers can be rest assured the only thing our government is securing is our tax dollars.

June 23rd, 2008

Source: Texas Observer

(More on what is going on – and why – here: “World Situation”

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