I’ve posted here before about the signing statements Bush has been adding to the bills he signs into law. Well it should come as no surprise that he is up to it again. Only this time it involves ignoring not just regulation by Congress, of trade in nuclear materials with India in this instance, but key provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that legislation was meant to in some wise uphold.
The Henry Hyde United States – India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act legislation was the result of a year’s worth of negotiations in Congress, as well as years of work between India and the US. In part, this bill called for the US Department of Energy to work with the scientific community in India (not signatory to the NPT) toward non-proliferation and nuclear safeguards. In the bill, the president is called upon to issue determinations that India is following US and global non-proliferation goals. It requires that transfers to India meet the requirements of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which the United States helped establish years ago to restrain nuclear trade. It was an attempt to let the president break the provisions of the NPT without really breaking it. But this was not good enough for Bush. He’s been wanting to break the NPT since he took office. He didn’t like the restrictions that the lowly Congress put on his nukuler proliferatin’, so he got out his pen and dismantled all the work so diligently constructed by others precisely to keep him from – technically anyway – turning us into a rogue state.
The Raw Story offers a glimpse of this presidential penmanship in this article:
First, President Bush took particular exception to a section declaring the policies of the United States, noting that his "approval of the Act does not constitute my adoption of the statements of policy as U.S. foreign policy." The statements of policy included opposition to nuclear weapons production by all non-nuclear weapons states, as well as promoting India's commitments to control the proliferation of nuclear fuel cycle technology, cooperate in preventing Iran's development of nuclear weapons, and limit expansion of existing nuclear arsenals in South Asia.And what exactly is your foreign policy, George? Armageddon?
Wait, there’s more:
Next, President Bush said that a control placed by Congress on transfers to India of items that would run afoul of Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines "unconstitutionally delegated legislative power to an international body," and he therefore considered the section "advisory" in nature.I’m The Decider – advise away, I ain’t listening!
Then, the president declared that 8 sections of the bill in total had to be construed "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to protect and control information that could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties."There it is – did you catch it? – that National Security line again!
This administration can only operate in secrecy, and when its secrecy is no secret, reasons of National Security is always the excuse. No habeas corpus rights for reasons of National Security; no privacy rights for reasons of National Security; no Bill of Rights for… oh, but I digress.
In another article, at The Raw Story, Democratic Senator Thomas Harkin of Iowa had this to say:
"With his recent signing statement, once again the president has shown he views Congress as a nuisance rather than an equal branch of government under the Constitution."In a press release Sen. Harkin went on to say:
"…outrageous that the president has repeatedly stated the greatest threat to U.S. national security is a nuclear Iran, yet explicitly rejects Congress' declaration that it shall be the official policy of the United States that India will not use its nuclear technology to help develop Iran's nuclear weapons arsenal."Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, co-chair of the House of Representatives task force on non-proliferation added:
The president is "turning decades of U.S. international policy on its head -- and thumbing his nose at Congress at the same time."It is time to call on our new Congress and the judiciary to put a stop to Bush’s end runs around the Constitution, hold him to the principle of Separation of Powers and to the laws of the land.
Two people already working to that end are: out-going US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) with his legislation to give Congress the power to sue In Federal Court to challenge the signing statements; and in-coming U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who has written a letter to Bush and publicly spoken out on the signing statements asking Bush to cease and desist the practice.
Also stepping into the ring is in-coming Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), a supporter of the bill. In a new article out today, The Raw Story reports on the statement Rep. Lantos issued the same day the bill was signed:
Lantos' office released a statement explaining that he and others "spent more than a year shepherding the measure through the legislative process, resolving the concerns of some who said it would be detrimental to efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons."Rep. Lantos is also pledging oversight in the next step of negotiations involving the U.S., India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group:
Lantos' office went on to specifically describe the efforts, noting that:
"A bill drafted by the Administration was scrapped in favor of a series of legislative steps that will ensure that India's civil and military nuclear programs remain separate, assert Congress' oversight prerogative as the agreement is implemented, and require reporting to Congress by the White House on India's cooperation with U.S. efforts to deter Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions."
The next step for the US-India nuclear deal requires the two countries to negotiate an agreement with the multilateral Nuclear Suppliers Group on their cooperation and nuclear trade. Lantos particularly pledged oversight by his office on this stage of the process. "If there are problems with it," he explained, "Congress will take a look at it again. The administration has an obligation to follow the law."Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington, DC-based Arms Control Association, is critical of the bill:
"The failing of this legislation is that it's based on hope and urgings," Kimball said. He added that Lantos and other advocates of the US-India agreement from both parties "energetically rejected amendments from members who wanted the bill to be more air-tight."He was also critical of Bush:
"What needs to happen now," he insisted, "is vigilant oversight, and President Bush has shown he does not plan to faithfully execute [the provisions]."Will these men get the veneer of NPT compliance put back in that legislation? Will they get NPT compliance put back in our country? What's going to put a stop to this guy's criminal pen?