Today, just 10 minutes before the scheduled noon transfer of the Panama
Canal, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor denied Judicial Watch’s
request for a temporary restraining order meant to halt the transfer.
The transfer took place today when President Mireya Moscoso and U.S.
Army Secretary Louis Caldera signed the formal document transferring the
Canal and the strip of land that surrounds it to Panama.
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit
yesterday in D.C. federal District Court seeking to declare the 1977
Panama Canal treaties invalid. At the same time, in the last minute
legal gambit, Judicial Watch also filed a motion to temporarily delay
the Panama Canal transfer that took place today.
The motion for a temporary restraining order was denied and immediately
appealed to the Supreme Court. If the emergency appeal had been granted
before noon, the transfer of the Canal to Panama would have been delayed
for 10 days.
The restraining order was taken to the Supreme Court this morning, but a
court official said O’Connor turned it down without comment.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told WorldNetDaily, “We are
seeking an immediate appeal to prevent the Canal from being turned over.
The whole ratification process was flawed so the Canal should not be
turned over. We believe the facts and the law are on our side here.”
U.S. Defense-American Victory, which is working with Judicial Watch on
the lawsuit, has former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm.
Thomas Moorer as its honorary chairman. Moorer is a high-profile and
steadfast critic of
the Canal transfer, particularly since the Chinese People’s Liberation
Army front company, Hutchinson Whampoa, signed a long-term deal with
Panama to lease strategic former U.S. ports and bases at both ends of
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., and Canal
tugboat Capt. Albert B. Hendricks, who is a Panamanian-American dual
citizen. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who has the power to
convey the Canal to Panama, is named as the defendant.
The lawsuit argues, “By reason of the failure of the Republic of Panama
to ratify the Treaty, it and the implementing legislation are nullities,
and of no lawful force and effect … As a consequence, transfer by
Albright of the Canal would be in violation of Article VI, § 3, clause 2
of the United States Constitution.”
Barr claims in the suit that a written report was not submitted to
Congress by President Clinton, a necessity prior to the Canal’s transfer
according to federal law.
According to the lawsuit, the report from the President must:
- Precisely identify and describe the particular property to be
- Certify the state of compliance by the Republic of Panama with the
Treaty and related agreements.
- Set forth the reasons for the conveyance being made at the particular
“This report is especially important because it certifies Panama’s state
of compliance with the treaties,” says the lawsuit.
“Congressman Barr is deprived of the information in the report, and
consequently deprived of any ability to review the information and
respond to the report with appropriate legislative action prior to the
December 31, 1999 deadline … Without the report, no lawful transfer of
the Canal can take place.
Barr claims the lack of the mandated report from Clinton amounts to
“denial, without due process of law, of his rights as a member of the
legislative branch of the federal government.”
Hendricks “worked in the Canal as a pilot, tugboat captain, and
operator” who “obtained the high degree of specialized skill and
experience necessary to obtain both United States and Panamanian
licenses to do so.”
The suit claims Hendricks was denied the position of master tugboat
operator because of his American citizenship, which he would have to
renounce. It says Hendricks cannot be denied the job without due
process, which he will not receive because the “illegal treaties purport
to transfer the control of the Panama Canal from the control of the
United States to the Republic of Panama.” The Panama constitution
provides preferences to Panamanian nationals to work at the Canal.
filed earlier this month by Rep. Helen Chenowith-Hage, R.-Idaho, also
seeks to declare the treaties null and void.
Despite today’s transfer of the Panama Canal, Judicial Watch says it
still intends to pursue the