The Bush administration seriously considered using the military to arrest terrorism suspects in the United States. Highly questionable from a Constitutional perspective, and also illegal under law. The legal “basis” for this approach was, of course, developed by John Yoo and the proposal was spearheaded by Dick Cheney. It wasn’t actually done but it was yet another attempt to end run the Constitution in the name of greater executive power.
Still, at least one high-level meeting was convened to debate the issue, at which several top Bush aides argued firmly against the proposal to use the military, advanced by Mr. Cheney, his legal adviser David S. Addington and some senior Defense Department officials.
Among those in opposition were Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser; John B. Bellinger III, the top lawyer at the National Security Council; Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Michael Chertoff, then the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.
Update: Jonathan Turley offers his thoughts. Money quote:
What is truly frightening is how close we came. A single person stood in the way of tearing down one of our most important legal and political traditions. The bar on domestic law enforcement activities distinguishes this country from other countries where the military holds tremendous power like Iran. The recent military takeover in Honduras is an example of the dangers. We have long believed that people raised under our freedoms (and particularly trained in our laws) would be opposed to such attacks on our traditions and values. Yet, a vice president and top legal advisers facilitated an effort that was not just unlawful but unnecessary. It shows that, even in the most successful democracy in history, we can still stand just one vote away from a path of abuse or even tyranny. The alarm over this story is magnified by the utter failure of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to exercise checks and balances during this period. We came down to George Bush — no civil libertarian — to block this effort — though this may have been more of a political and legal calculation.
Update 2: Perhaps less thoughtful (yet more pungent) comments at Wonkette:
Anyway, made much more sense to just deploy the military to scoop ‘em up—tanks, guns, fuckin’ you know, whatever else, but definitely, definitely tanks—and just do whatever with them, and not even bother with the F.B.I. and their questions, because what’s going to retroactively prevent 9/11: a tank or a question?