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Leahy Promises Oversight of FBI, Justice


Senator Patrick Leahy gave a speech at Georgetown University today and announced that the Democratic Congress would provide tougher oversight of the Adminsitration's tactics in waging its "war on terror." The AP story is up on the MSNBC website, here. Part of the oversight he mentioned will focus on alleged abuses related to Iraqi police forces as well as war profiteering, but the part that caught my eye was this:

Leahy revealed that Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., will chair a new subcommittee on human rights. The new panel's agenda will include overseeing legislation on torture and detainee treatment.

That means we can look forward to public hearings into the Bush Administration's renditions, denials of habeas corpus, abuses/torture of detainees, denials of attorneys, kangaroo detention hearings, and misuse of evidence. Aside from the brutality imposed on the victims these practices have stained the nation's honor and put the United States high up on the list of nations now regarded as significant violators of human rights. The promised oversight apparently covers everything that the Administration and Congress tried to sanction and cover up last year when they passed the unconcionable Military Commissions Act. I think we can expect "invitations" to testify, backed by subpoena power, with testimony under oath from such noted "legal experts" as John Yoo, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales and many others.

It's about time. But there's more.

In his speech at Georgetown University, Leahy did say that reclaiming the chairmanship after a brief possession of the gavel in 2001-02 would be a period of "restoration, repair and renewal" after what he termed years of the Bush administration's virtually unchecked power to hunt for terrorists even within U.S. borders.

"This administration has been less and less willing to let us know what they are doing," Leahy said in prepared remarks obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program and the government's secretive terrorism risk assessments of Americans traveling abroad merit a closer look by his panel, Leahy said.

"Americans' privacy is a price the Bush administration is willing to pay for the cavalier way it is spawning new databanks," he said in the prepared text. "We are way overdue in catching up to the erosion of privacy, and the Judiciary Committee now will help to bring this picture into focus."

For the past 6 years, the Department of Justice, under Attorneys General Ashcroft and Gonzales, with the full support and active encouragement of the President and Vice President, have turned the DoJ into enablers and defenders of some of the worst official lawlessness our country has every practiced. Along with the conduct of the Iraq war and the Bush regime's seeming indifference to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East, the lawlessness of the DoJ has been perhaps the most dispiriting and damaging aspect of the Bush era.

Long-time respected commenter Mary once created a long list of DoJ's lawless abuses that, at the time, she assumed might never be investigated, never come to light, never be corrected. But it may be time to dust off that list, eh Mary? And just for good measure, how about Leahy throwing in that little matter of the DoJ turning a blind but unjust eye on the Department of Homeland Security's apparent complicity in the multiple murders carried out by one of their paid informants? Glenn Greenwald, who’s been all over this, would appreciate that.

So stock up on popcorn, 'cause you won't want to miss the moment when we start to reclaim our lost honor and get our Constitution and its Bill of Rights back.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley