Whatever are they up to? Grassley, Graham want the FBI’s Russia surveillance warrants By Austin Wright, Politico Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and panel member Lindsey Graham are asking the FBI to turn over some closely guarded secrets: its applications for warrants to spy on people suspected of helping Russia meddle in last year’s …
Tag: Senate Judiciary Committee
The shame of the Democrats and the so-called progressives is that it was a Tea Party Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who stood up for civil liberties and the ever expanding executive power with his thirteen hour filibuster. In his article at The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald shreds the progressive Democratic myths and distortions about Sen. Paul’s filibuster and its importance.
In Glenn’s first point, he notes the lack of any empathy for the those whose rights are most abused and dismissed with an “it’s not me; it’s them” attitude.
(1) Progressives and their “empathy gap”
The US government’s continuous killing, due-process-free imprisonment, and other rights abuses under the War on Terror banner has affected one group far more than any other: Muslims and, increasingly, American Muslims. Politically, this has been the key fact enabling this to endure. Put simply, if you’re not Muslim, it’s very easy to dismiss, minimize or mock these issues because you can easily tell yourself that they don’t affect you or your family and therefore there is no reason to care. And since the vast, vast majority of Democratic politicians and progressive media commentators are not Muslim, one continuously sees this mentality shaping reaction to these issues. [..]
For a political faction that loves to depict itself as the champions of “empathy”, and which reflexively accuses others of having their political beliefs shaped by self-interest, this is an ironic fact indeed. It’s also the central dynamic driving the politics of these issues: the US government and media collaborate to keep the victims of these abuses largely invisible, so we rarely have to confront them, and on those rare occasions when we do, we can easily tell ourselves (false though the assurance is) that these abuses do not affect us and our families and it’s therefore only “paranoia” that can explain why someone might care so much about them.
Second, what Sen. Paul’s critics missed, or just blithely ignored, was that this was about the president’s claim to have the authority to assassinate an American citizen on American soil, or for that matter, anywhere else.
(2) Whether domestic assassinations are imminent is irrelevant to the debate
To focus on that attack is an absurd strawman, a deliberate distraction from the real issues, a total irrelevancy. That’s true for two primary reasons.
First, the reason this question matters so much – can the President target US citizens for assassination without due process on US soil? – is because it demonstrates just how radical the Obama administration’s theories of executive power are. Once you embrace the premises of everything they do in this area – we are a Nation at War; the entire globe is the battlefield; the president is vested with the unchecked power to use force against anyone he accuses of involvement with Terrorism – then there is no cogent, coherent way to say that the president lacks the power to assassinate even US citizens on US soil. That conclusion is the necessary, logical outcome of the premises that have been embraced. That’s why it is so vital to ask that. [..]
Second, presidents change, and so do circumstances. The belief that Barack Obama – despite his record – is too kind, too good, too magnanimous, too responsible to target US citizens for assassination on US soil is entirely irrelevant. At some point, there will be another president, even a Republican one, who will inherit the theories he embraces. Moreover, circumstances can change rapidly, so that – just as happened with 9/11 – what seems unthinkable quickly becomes not only possible but normalized.
In his third and final point, debunks the argument that this was over Holder’s first letter to Sen Paul, not that his second was any more satisfactory.
(3) Holder did not disclaim the power to assassinate on US soil
Indeed, the whole point of the Paul filibuster was to ask whether the Obama administration believes that it has the power to target a US citizen for assassination on US soil the way it did to Anwar Awlaki in Yemen. The Awlaki assassination was justified on the ground that Awlaki was a “combatant”, that he was “engaged in combat”, even though he was killed not while making bombs or shooting at anyone but after he had left a cafe where he had breakfast. If the Obama administration believes that Awlaki was “engaged in combat” at the time he was killed – and it clearly does – then Holder’s letter is meaningless at best, and menacing at worst, because that standard is so broad as to vest the president with exactly the power his supporters now insist he disclaimed.
The phrase “engaged in combat” has come to mean little more than: anyone the President accuses, in secrecy and with no due process, of supporting a Terrorist group. Indeed, radically broad definitions of “enemy combatant” have been at the heart of every War on Terror policy, from Guantanamo to CIA black sites to torture. [..]
At best, Holder’s letter begs the question: what do you mean when you accuse someone of being “engaged in combat”? And what are the exact limits of your power to target US citizens for execution without due process? That these questions even need to be asked underscores how urgently needed Paul’s filibuster was, and how much more serious pushback is still merited. But the primary obstacle to this effort has been, and remains, that the Democrats who spent all that time parading around as champions of these political values are now at the head of the line leading the war against them.
This is not a country of secret laws and courts. It is incumbent on the Congress to do its Constitutional duty to question the Executive Branch and hold it in check when it over steps its Constitutional authority.
That this president has expressed the belief that he has the authority to assassinate Americans without due process, and in fact has, should be abhorrent to every American no matter which side of the aisle you favor.
Between having to admit that it was too big to prosecute (TBTP) the Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks, his testimony on the legality of targeted assassinations and having to clarify lethal drone attacks on Americans in America after Rand Paul’s thirteen hour filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder has not has a good week.
In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, AG Holder responded to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s concern that the “mentality of too-big-to-jail in the financial sector” was leading to the spread of terrorism (re:HSBC) with this:
HOLDER: The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share. And I’m not talking about HSBC now. That (inaudible) be appropriate.
But I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.
Never mind laundering money for terrorist activity and giving it a pass, it’s all about protecting the world’s 1%. The Federal Reserve just keeps handing them $83 billion in handouts every year while Obama negotiates away Social Security and Medicare benefits at fancy dinners in Washington posh hotels with Republicans.
If they’re TBTP, then it time to break them up
Then came Kentucky’s Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s pique over Mr. Holder’s failure to answer three inquiries regarding armed drone attacks on Americans on American soil. Sen Paul’s 13 hour filibuster which at times bizarre (you try talking for that long and not sound a little weird) causing Mr. Holder to back off on his assertion that the president can do just that. In his second letter, Mr. Holder told Sen. Paul that the president would not have the authority to order a drone to kill an American citizen on U.S. soil who was “not engaged in combat.”. How nice, he can’t use drones. But AG holder can take solace, the author of the Bush administration legal memos justifying the use of torture, John Yoo, thinks thinks “President Obama is really getting too much grief over targeted killing“:
“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do, they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” said Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, who once suggested it was okay for the president to order a child’s testicles be crushed. Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.” Yoo’s statements were made on a conference call Thursday held by the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.
Now that’s an endorsement you can take to a war crimes trial.
It is unconstitutional to target a group or an individual without due process under Article I, Section 10, Clause 1 of the Constitution which bans bills of attainder, and the Fifth Amendment.
So long as this president has a list of people he thinks can be targeted for assassination without due process, by armed drone or any other means, there are should to be questions and not just from a handful of Tea Party Libertarians. As for AG Holder, if he can’t prosecute banks or uphold the Constitution, then he should be fired, resign or impeached.
Happy Monday and welcome the Dog’s ongoing letter writing campaign. For those of you joining for the first time the idea is every Monday the Dog writes a to decision makers about accountability for the Bush Administration State Sponsored Torture program. This letter can be cut and by any reader or used as the jumping off point for your own letter. The point is to keep the pressure up on the decision makers to make those who apparently committed one of the worst possible crimes accountable for their actions. Today’s letter is to Sen. Patrick Leahy and the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.
“Originally posted at Squarestate.net“
On Monday afternoon, I posted a diary discussing the Uniting American Families Act. It also got Front Paged here (thanks, benign overlord administrators) I also received an excellent e-mail about the issue.
I titled the diary “The gay rights bill you don’t know about.” I should have checked some tags first. Heh.
At any rate, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a very informative hearing on the bill Wednesday morning.
To recap, UAFA does one simple thing. It would allow American citizens to sponsor same sex partners for immigration just like married couples. The Senate bill is sponsored by Patrick Leahy of Vermont while the House version is sponsored by Jerrold Nadler of New York. Follow me below for a recap of the hearing.
On Wednesday morning, June 3, at 10 a.m. the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). (If you are in town, the hearing is in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.) C-Span does not have Wednesday’s television schedule up yet, but the Committee website offers a webcast of the hearing.
UAFA would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow a citizen to sponsor a same sex partner for citizenship.
This might be one of those bills that ultimately goes nowhere or it may fundamentally change the course of both the gay marriage and immigration debates. Follow me below the fold for more on this bill.
Note: this turns Orange and will appear at Congress Matters Sunday at 8 p.m.
Welcome to the tenth installment of “Considered Forthwith.”
This weekly series looks at the various committees in the House and the Senate. Committees are the workshops of our democracy. This is where bills are considered, revised, and occasionally advance for consideration by the House and Senate. Most committees also have the authority to exercise oversight of related executive branch agencies. If you want to read previous dairies in the series, search using the “forthwith” tag or use the link on my blogroll. I welcome criticisms and corrections in the comments.
This week I will look at the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The committee’s jurisdiction is very similar to the House Judiciary Committee (the Forthwith diary is posted here). There is one big difference, though. The Senate committee gets to hold hearings on judicial confirmations, so this seems timely.
Additionally, the committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on an important gay rights/immigration bill (see Uniting American Families Act below).
When last we met, Gentle Reader, it was to work through a series of legal precedents and statute law; the goal of the exercise being to determine if we could or could not define waterboarding as torture.
We have the kind assistance of Professor Jeffrey Addicott, who has provided us with his written testimony from his recent appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a personal interview, where he walked me through some of his thinking on the matter.
Today we’re going to take a look at the precedent that he has used to reach the conclusion that waterboarding is not torture.
It’s also possible that the analysis may result in the discovery of a bit of common ground…but as I noted in Part One, it’s common ground that neither one of us might have seen coming.
I can’t tell you the number of times I began a story with a plan for where it would go, only to discover that the plan isn’t going to work.
The stories sometimes seem to write themselves…but other times, the research seems to do the writing instead; this being one of those times.
When the production of this story began it was with the intention of trying to explain what should be the “controlling authority” in terms of defining torture, a precedent set by the European Court of Human Rights, or Title 18 of the United States Code.
Having reviewed both statute law and numerous judgments in law courts worldwide as well as the recent Senate Judiciary Committee testimony of Professor Jeffrey Addicott, and having conducted an interview with Dr. Addicott personally, I’ve come to two rather surprising conclusions:
It may not really matter whether waterboarding is torture…and although neither I nor Dr. Addicott might have seen it coming, it’s starting to appear that he and I might agree on one thing:
Waterboarding, whether it’s torture or not, is a war crime.
You want the truth, Senator Leahy?
Here’s some truth for you:
Liberty itself has been assaulted, democracy itself has been ravaged, an entire nation has been brutalized by those treacherous BushCo criminals you want to spend some quality truth and reconciliation time with. But there can be no reconciliation, there can be no forgiveness for what they’ve done, the damage they’ve inflicted is incalculable, the lives they’ve destroyed cannot be given back. They are obscenities in suits, they are treasonous to the core, they hijacked the government of the greatest democracy on earth and turned it into a wasteland of lawlessness, betrayal, corruption, and deceit.
Tell them what America stands for, Senator Leahy. Tell them who we are, show them what justice looks like.
There has been plenty of controversy on the issue of conducting a Congressional or independent investigation into the interrogations policy and torture activities of the Bush administration over the last seven or eight years.
One of the primary worries by those who oppose a “truth and reconciliation”-style investigation is that it would preempt possible prosecutions, or at worst, be a cover-up of some of the worst crimes involved. Those who favor such an investigation believe that is only with a broad investigation will all the information really be unearthed.
The hearing today by the Senate Judiciary Committee — “Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry” — chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), was called to explore options for investigating past torture and counter-terrorism policy. The committee called six witnesses, some for, some against such an investigation. But a close look at the backgrounds and affiliations of even most of the pro-investigation witnesses should give us deep pause, and ask what kind of commission are we being set up for?
Senate Judiciary Committee: Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry
Starting at 10 AM Eastern/ 7 AM Pacific
Watch it here:
Hills & Company, International Consultants
Retired Vice Admiral Lee Gunn
The American Security Project
Arsenault, Whipple, Farmer, Fasset and Azzarello, L.L.P.
Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr.
Brennan Center for Justice
New York University School of Law
New York, NY
David B. Rivkin, Jr.
Baker & Hostetler, L.L.P.
Professor of Law
George Mason University School of Law
There is no longer any doubt as to whether the Bush administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
~Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba