Hero on the bench

Anna Diggs Taylor US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor

Hear ye, hear ye!

Quite often, a hero turns out to be a quite ordinary person who simply does the right thing when others have lost their bearings. And so it is with the case of Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She issued a ruling today that George W Bush's NSA warrantless wiretapping program ("terrorist surveillance program" in Bush-speak) is unconstitutional, and she issued an injunction ordering the program to stop.

Said Judge Taylor in her opinion, "Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution."

A number of people in the legislative branch of government have said much the same thing about the wire-tapping program, but they have lacked the spine to actually do anything about it. The best they could summon up was an effort to write a bill that would try to make the program legal retroactively. None in power have been willing to put up a real fight.

Never has the wisdom of — and need for — the checks and balances of our three equal branches of government been so apparent. With both the White House and the Congress under the control of compliant Republicans, the courts have been the last bastion of resistance to an unchecked executive. On crucial matters, the Supreme Court has twice ruled that the war on terror does not give the president "a blank check." Taylor's ruling sets up another test.

Whenever any of Bush's programs is called into question, two things happen. First, he asserts that the program is absolutely, unquestionably legal and constitutional. Second, the GOP spin machine sets out to tar those who raised the question as unpatriotic and on the side of terrorists.

What Bush just doesn't seem to get is that he doesn't get to be the one to decide legality or constitutionality. That's why we have courts! That's why we have the expression "Rule of law." W rails about "activist judges" who see things in the law that he doesn't see, but he and Cheney are "activist executives" who see nothing wrong with making up their own laws as they go along. From the beginning, Bush and his Bush-whackers have trampled all over civil rights and the rule of law by claiming they're fighting terror, as if that wipes out everything except Article II Section 2 of the Constitution (commander in chief).

Instead of giving the Medal of Freedom to toadies and yes-men like George Tenet and Paul Bremer, it ought to go to courageous people like Judge Taylor who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to sign their name to them.

"Freedom is on the march," indeed — in retreat!