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Last nights Judiciary Commitee hearing on renewal of the Patriot Act was indeed an awesome event. I have to give primary props to witness James Zogby (Arab American Institute), who was exactly on point each and every time he spoke. I also have to give some respect to the Majority opposition - they were quite cagey in their efforts to disenfrancise dissent and debate, which has to be respected as a job well done. From Rep. Dan Lungren to Chairmen Sensenbrener, they were amazing in their recitation of RNC talking points. As purveyors of truth Democrats have to give it up to them - they had their "game faces" on.
The number and quantity of abuses which occured at the Stalanist Gulags in fact does not compare to the abuses at Abu Ghraib or Guantanemo. Tens of millions of people were abused in the former Soviet Union, Millions of them were killed - literally exterminated - and that should not be cheapened. However, the fact that must be recognized which is consistent with Soviet Russian is not the quantity of people affected - but the quality of the abuses, and more importantly the strenuous desperation and denial of those abuses as well as obfuscations of the ultimate responsibilty for them - all of which are completely in line with the events at the Soviet Gulags and many other human rights tragedy's around the world.
No, it is not true that America has destroyed anywhere near as many lives as have many other oppressive nations around the world - but the path to accomplishing that is paved with the denials of each and every element of abuse and murder which occurs under the American Flag.
Are we as bad as Stalin? No. Not yet, but there's still time - and honestly, that's all we seem to need at this point.
On the issue brought by Chairman Sensenbrener that this particular hearing should be limited in scope to the 16 specific provisions of the Patriot Act which are scheduled for "Sunset" -- I find it interesting that he drew that conclusion based on a Democratic memo, and just about every Democrat involved in the hearing disagreed with his characterization of a memo, that they themselves wrote and endorsed!!! Could it be that Sensenbrener, regardless of the legitimacy of his abrubpty adjourning the hearing, simply - and possibly quite deliberate - had the facts completely wrong?
I think that he could, but I'm just one guy in a big, bad world who has the ability to read and comprehend basic law and fact. What do I - or for that matter the entire American public - know, really?
Yes - what indeed.
Perhaps, far more than Chairman Sensenbrener seem to expect.
The following are the 16 Provisions of the Patriot Act which are set to expire (Sunset) on Dec 31, 2005:
§201. Authority To Intercept Wire, Oral, And Electronic Communications Relating To Terrorism.
§202. Authority To Intercept Wire, Oral, And Electronic Communications Relating To Computer Fraud And Abuse Offenses.
§203(b), (d). Authority To Share Criminal Investigative Information.
§206. Roving Surveillance Authority Under The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Of 1978.
§207. Duration Of FISA Surveillance Of Non-United States Persons Who Are Agents Of A Foreign Power.
§209. Seizure Of Voice-Mail Messages Pursuant To Warrants.
§212. Emergency Disclosure Of Electronic Communications To Protect Life And Limb.
§214. Pen Register And Trap And Trace Authority Under FISA.
§215. Access To Records And Other Items Under FISA.
§217. Interception Of Computer Trespasser Communications.
§218. Foreign Intelligence Information. (Lowers standard of evidence for FISA warrants.)
§220. Nationwide Service Of Search Warrants For Electronic Evidence.
§223. Civil Liability For Certain Unauthorized Disclosures.
§224. Sunset. (self-cancelling)
§225. Immunity For Compliance With Fisa Wiretap.
Fact Check of Conyersblog Trolls:
Pitts only brought up ONE subject that has anything to do with the Patriot ACT---and that is the Library problem...
When he was asked by one of the Reps if he could even name ONE person that had been unfairly treated by the FBI because of their library habits, he couldn't---
That is incorrect, Mr Pitts (Amnesty International) did indeed provide a specific name during the hearing, and he had more names, which Chairman Sensenbrener required him to provide within the next week.
There was also considerable discussion by Mr. Zogby and Ms. Tapia-Ruano (American Immigration Lawyers Assoc) on Section 204, which involves the detention of foreign nations on immigration issues when they been labeled as "terrorist" - and the lack of any methodology for them to protest that label.
He had every right to end this meeting abruptly since it was the 11th one since April.
But it was the first and only hearing that included more than one witness called by the minority - all the others it would appear are simply show hearings, telling the majority what it wants to hear.
Everyone had an opportunity to question the panel. Maxine Waters, the last questioner, spent four minutes and 45 seconds of her alloted five minutes in a diatribe against Bush. Conyers, the ranking member, then asked for four additional minutes so the panel members could respond to Waters' comments. Rightfully, Sensenbrenner refused and after some closing remarks adjourned the meeting.
Another fact: Maxine Waters (D-California) was not at the hearing, the last questioner was Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas). I know black female Congresspeople look alike to some, but that doesn't make them literally alike. There are actually several black women who are current members of Congress.
As I said before (on a Conyersblog post), it seems quite curious that based on a Democratic Letter - Chairman Sensenbrener would try to restrict the meeting merely to the 16 Sunseting Provisions, despite clear objections by the Democrats who wrote the letter. That restriction was Sensenbreners own construction, not the intent of the Democrats.
To be fair, Sensenbrener not only cut off Democrats and the witnesses when the time expired - he also cut off Republicans such as Dan Lungren. He was technically correct that abuses at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are not part of the Patriot Act, but they also are not "random occurances" - they were clearly given the green light by the Bybee Memos from the Department of Justice (Which is indeed under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee), and the Haynes Memo from the Department of Defense.
Even a cursory viewing of hearings on C-Span would show that it's quite normal to allow people to finish their answers to a question, even though their time has expired -- or allow them, with Unanimous Consent -- to have a few additional minutes for one more question or answer. That's normal, what is not normal is to be as rude as Sensenbrener was in interrupting people in mid-statement and then abruptly adjourning the meeting because he didn't like the answers the witnesses were giving.
The rules of the house do not allow for a Chairmen to abruptly end a hearing without first asking for "Unanimous Consent".
Clause 1(a)(1)(b) of Rule XI of the House Rules states: "It is not within the power of the Chair to unilaterally recess or adjourn a committee hearing or meeting. If an objection is heard, a non-debatable motion to adjourn must be entertained and passed in order to do so."
The bottom-line point was made by Rep Jerrold Nadler was key - "Just what are the Republicans afraid of?"
The answer to that question just might be the additional witnesses, including several Muslim women who had tails of abuse and several Librarians who had been the subject of FISA warrants, who attended the hearing but due to Sensenbrener's actions, were not allowed to testify and be heard by the American public.