Report: U.S. Not as 'Free' as Touted; Bush's Actions Cause 'Concern'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 4, 2008 | Go to article overview

Report: U.S. Not as 'Free' as Touted; Bush's Actions Cause 'Concern'


Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NEW YORK - The U.S. political system is, at best, "a work in progress" according to an evaluation from the pro-democracy group Freedom House, which finds significant flaws in the U.S. criminal justice system, counterterrorism strategies and the treatment of minorities and immigrants.

In a 300-page report, titled "Today's American: How Free?", to be released tomorrow, the group subjects the United States to the scrutiny it more often applies to the Belaruses and Tajikistans of the world.

Despite concerns, today's America is "quite free," according to group, which constantly places the United States in the top tier with two dozen other nations based on civil liberties and political rights in its annual reports on freedoms around the world.

In the United States, "challenges to those freedoms by government officials or other actors encounter vigorous and often successful resistance from civil society and the press, the political opposition, and a judiciary that is mindful of its role as a restraint on executive and legislative excess," the authors say.

"Indeed, the dynamic, self-correcting nature of American democracy - the resilience of its core institutions and habits even in a time of military conflict - is the most significant finding."

The study, however, expresses "grave concern" about the Bush administration's attempt to extend the White House's power without congressional or judicial review.

"Generally speaking, the controversies over counterterrorism policies can be traced to the Bush administration's assertion of a degree of executive authority that is extraordinary even in wartime," says the report, which finds that broad electronic surveillance affects millions, and law enforcement has "overreached" in terrorism cases.

Deputy Executive Director Thomas Melia said this is the perfect time for Freedom House - founded by Eleanor Roosevelt - to turn its sights on the United States. Not only is it an election year, but also the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. …

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