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Did Bush Repeal the Fifth Amendment?

Although the Fifth Amendment  to the Constitution guarantees that “No person shall … be deprived of … property, without due process of law,” on July 17 President Bush issued an executive order authorizing the Treasury department to seize any and all property belonging to individuals who “pose a significant risk” of committing violent acts that undermine the “peace or stability” of Iraq. The action does not require congressional approval.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow clarified in a press briefing that the intent is to target “terrorists and insurgent groups,” but the American Civil Liberties Union protested that the executive order “posed risks for residents of the United States.” Michael Chossudovsky, professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, argued that the executive order in effect criminalized mere opposition to the war. But the matter raised only tepid protests from Congress and little attention in the press. (Two notable exceptions are this July 23 article by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post and this Aug. 5 op-ed by Editorial Page Editor John Diaz in the San Francisco Chronicle.)

Emboldened, perhaps, by the mild response, on August 2 President Bush issued a similar executive order (below) regarding Lebanon. This action authorizes the Treasury to “block the property and interests in property” of “any U.S. persons” (including “a spouse or dependent child”) who challenge “the sovereignty of Lebanon” (i.e., support Syria’s occupation of Lebanon and its interference in Lebanese politics). In this instance the target can be anyone whose actions are deemed to “pose a significant risk” of undermining Lebanon’s democratic processes, violent or not.

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