David Morgan – Reuters November 17, 2006
A top Bush administration official on Friday said the European Union, the United Nations and other international entities increasingly are using international law to challenge U.S. powers to reject treaties and protect itself from attack.
"International law is being used as a rhetorical weapon against us," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, a former federal appellate judge, said in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative policy group.
Chertoff cited members of the European Parliament in particular as harboring an "increasingly activist, left-wing and even elitist philosophy of law" at odds with American practices and interests.
But he said the same pattern could be seen in the policies of the United Nations and other international bodies.
"What we see here is a vision of international law that if taken aggressively would literally strike at the heart of some of our basic fundamental principals -- separation of powers, respect for the Senate's ability to ratify treaties and ... reject treaties," Chertoff said.
President George W. Bush's administration has been repeatedly criticized by rights groups and foreign governments, including some allies, over some of the tactics it has used in Washington's war on terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Critics have aimed at Bush's policies such as the indefinite detention of foreign terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
Chertoff said the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan that required the United States to treat detainees under Geneva Conventions standards showed international law's entry into the U.S. domain.
He also pointed to negotiations leading up to last month's interim agreement between the United States and the European Union on sharing personal information about trans-Atlantic airline passengers.
The Bush administration sought addresses, credit card details, phone numbers and other details for U.S.-bound European air passengers as a way to determine whether any should be turned back from entering the United States as a security risk.
"Some in the European Parliament argued that the fact the information was derived from Europeans coming to the U.S. meant that we should be forced in the United States to let Europe supervise and set the terms of how we make use of that information," Chertoff said.
"Fortunately, we resolved it in a way that does address the principal concerns that we have," he added.
Chertoff also cited press reports of European privacy activists trying to constrain U.S. use of financial information obtained in Washington's war on terrorism.
"There are increasing efforts to control our use of information in our own country," he said.
Some EU activists, he said, believe national sovereignty is weakening under an avalanche of international laws.
"It (is) a chilling vision of where we could go, given the current developments in international and transnational law," Chertoff said.
Last updated 20/11/2006