I got a call from Jim Babka of Downsize DC the other day and he mentioned the announcement of the American Freedom Agenda by a group of prominent conservatives. It’s an interesting group: Bruce Fein, former DOJ official under Reagan and prominent legal scholar; David Keene of the American Conservative Union; Bob Barr, former Georgia Congressman; and Richard Viguerie, who may not be a well known name but is probably the man most responsible for the election of Ronald Reagan and the formation of the modern conservative movement.
What makes it all the more interesting is the position they are taking: they are pushing a raft of reforms that would push back Bush’s “unitary executive” agenda and restore checks and balances to government. They are taking a strong stand against a wide range of Bush policies – the warrantless wiretapping program, the use of presidential signing statements as de facto vetoes, extraordinary rendition, the use of torture, the military commissions act, and much more. They are asking 2008 presidential candidates to sign the Freedom Pledge, the text of which I will paste below the fold:
I, (candidate), hereby pledge that if elected President of the United States I will undertake the following to restore the Constitution’s checks and balances, to honor fundamental protections against injustice, and to eschew usurpations oflegislative or judicial power.These are keystones of national security and individual freedom:
1. No Military Commissions Except on the Battlefield. I will not employ military commissions to prosecute offenses against the laws of war except in places where active hostilities are ongoing and a battlefield tribunal is necessary to obtain fresh testimony and to prevent local anarchy or chaos.
2. No Evidence Extracted by Torture or Coercion. I will not permit the use of evidence obtained by torture or coercion to be admissible in a military commission or other tribunal.
3. No Detaining Citizens as Unlawful Enemy Combatants. I will not detain any American citizen as an unlawful enemy combatant. Citizens accused of terrorism-linked crimes will be prosecuted in federal civilian courts.
4. RestoringHabeas Corpus for Suspected Alien Enemy Combatants. I will detain non-citizens as enemy combatants only if they have actively participated in actual hostilities against the United States. I will urge Congress to amend the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to permit any individual detained under the custody or control of the United States government to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal courts.
5. Prohibiting Warrantless Spying bythe National Security Agency in Violation of Law. I will prohibit the National Security Agency from gathering foreign intelligence except in conformity with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and end the NSA’s domestic surveillance program that targets American citizens on American soil for warrantless electronic surveillance.
6. Renouncing Presidential Signing Statements. I will not issue presidential signing statements declaring the intent to disregard provisions of a bill that I have signed into law because I believe they are unconstitutional. Instead, I will veto any bill that I believe contains an unconstitutional provision and ask Congress to delete it and re-pass the legislation.
7. Ending Secret Government by Invoking State Secrets Privilege. I will not invoke the state secrets privilege to deny remedies to individuals victimized by constitutional violations perpetrated by government officials or agents. I will not assert executive privilege to deny Congress information relevant to oversight or legislation unless supreme state secrets are involved. In that case, I will submit the privilege claim to a legislative-executive committee for definitive resolution.
8. Stopping Extraordinary Renditions. I will order the cessation of extraordinary renditions except where the purpose of the capture and transportation of the suspected criminal is for prosecution according to internationally accepted standards of fairness and due process.
9. Stopping Threats to Prosecuting Journalists under the Espionage Act. I will urge Congress to amend the Espionage Act to create a journalistic exception for reporting on matters relating to the national defense. As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, until such an amendment is enacted I will not prosecute journalists for alleged Espionage Act violations except for the intentional disclosure of information that threatens immediate physical harm to American troops or citizens at home or abroad.
10. Ending the Listing of Individuals or Organizations as Terrorists Based on Secret Evidence. I will not list individuals or organizations as foreign terrorists or foreign terrorist organizations for purposes of United States or international law based on secret evidence.
I will issue a public report annually elaborating on how the actions enumerated in paragraphs 1-10 have strengthened the ability of the United States to defeat international terrorism, secure fundamental freedoms, and preserve the nation’s democratic dispensation.
It’s an extraordinary list of grievances and they are right on every one of them. It’s interesting that these are all virtually identical to the positions taken by the ACLU and most liberals and libertarians over the last few years, so it is certainly refreshing to see such prominent conservatives agreeing with those positions and joining the fight against the unconstitutional policies of the Bush administration. Is it possible that Bush has gone so far that he has actually managed to unite liberals, conservatives and libertarians in support of the Constitution? One can only hope.