Vol. 2, Issue 23, June 8, 2004
Lawyers Conclude President Not Bound by Laws of Physics
A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003 legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by the laws of physics because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security.
"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign," the lawyers wrote in the 56-page confidential memorandum, "such restrictions as the laws of momentum, gravity, and the speed of light must be construed as inapplicable to actions undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority."
According to the memo, such violations would only be defensible in cases where the president was acting directly in the interests of national security.
"We're not saying that he should just go flying up into the air instead of using Air Force One for routine travel," said Harold Weiss, a White House staff attorney. "But if Al Qaeda were to hijack some more planes, then some judicious faster-than-light action might well be justifiable."
The memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, also said that any executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against violating the laws of physics for a variety of reasons.
"The U.N. Security Council has long enforced such principles as the laws of thermodynamics," commented Rumsfeld. "Now that puts American soldiers at risk. When you lift these artificial restrictions, you can get much better mileage out of a Humvee, for example. In a way, you could say that the U.N. is in favor of preserving entropy. Entropy is chaos: America stands for order."
The scientific community reacted with expressions of outrage and disbelief.
"Billions of dollars in research and development will go down the drain if the Bush administration proceeds along these lines," said Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences. "The short-term gains would certainly be offset by the permanent loss of America's lead in scientific research. Once you open the door to perpetual motion machines, all bets are off."
The March memorandum, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday, is the latest internal legal study to be disclosed that shows that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks the administration's lawyers were set to work to find legal arguments to avoid restrictions imposed by international and American law. The previously disclosed Justice Department memorandum concluded that administration officials were justified in asserting that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the Afghanistan war, and that the laws of attraction and planetary motion were "optional."
"I don't care if we have to declare that up is down and black is white," said Rumsfeld. "We're going to do what it takes to keep America safe, and make sure that we have a darn good justification for doing so - at least on paper."