Democratic Hearing on Domestic Surveillance, Illegal Spying

C-SPAN Coverage: Democratic Hearing on Domestic Surveillance

Friday, Jan. 20, 2006




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Informant: John Calvert


[ please forward widely ]

Today's NSA Hearing
No Limiting Principle To Bush's excesses
by John Conyers, Friday, Jan. 20, 2006
Let me know your thoughts and suggestions

Today's hearing on the domestic wiretap scandal was a true milestone. The witnesses were informed and articulate. The Members were excellent as well. Rawstory


has my opening statement, and all of the other statements from the hearing. We had good media coverage, with C-SPAN,


ABC Radio, and Radio Pacifica covering live, and numerous other broadcast, print and bloggers were there. AP


has a story, and I expect more to come.

Although we were again forced into the basement, all of American heard us today and they now know we will not be silenced while the Constitution is shredded.

One impression I came away with was how the witnesses all agreed that rather than improving the situation, the Administration's 42 page brief made things worse, as DOJ offered arguments that were not subject to any limiting principle to rein in the president at a time of unending war. In other words, not only are we being spied on, but we have a president who has laid out an ever deepening paper trail that he is above the law.

Let me offer the following brief observations from the hearing:

Bruce Fein

-- the implausibility of the president's claims are self evident

-- the principle of universal presidential power will lie around like a loaded gun, and if unchecked will be abused

James Bamford

-- Gave us a good history of FISA, the NSA was used by Nixon to wiretap Americans. The DOJ even investigated, but instead of prosecuting, FISA was enacted.

Jonathan Turley

-- Bush's actions constitute a clear crime

-- There is no limiting principle to the president's arguments

-- it is Congress' duty to protect the Constitution

Richard Hersh

-- Recounted how his peace activist group was investigated by DOD.

Carole Frederickson

-- discussed range of abuses by Bush, above and beyond secret spy program -- torture, enemy combatants, racial profiling, wiretapping lawyers, secret courts etc.

Kate Martin

-- explained how the wiretap program was not even an effective law enforcement tool.

-- Bush's actions violate FISA several different ways

Question and Answer

-- Rep. Nadler reminds us that Bush can be prosecuted even after he leaves office because of the lenthy statute of limitations

-- I asked the panelists what actions we should take. Fein says we should have hearings around the country. Turley says we must pursue all legal avenues. I also announced that I was sending a letter to various telecommunications companies asking them for information about the warrantless surveillance program.

-- Rep. Schiff asks the panelists to cast Bush's arguments in the best light, and they all still are wanting.

-- Rep. Van Hollen asks why we even consider laws like PATRIOT Act if Bush can just do what he wants. Tells us that just because the DOJ brief is longer the arguments aren't any better.

-- Rep. Scott asks about Levi guidelines and notes that FBI can investigate Americans with no evidence or suspicion of a crime.

-- Rep. Wexler asks Hersh about his group, which is mostly retirees, grandparents, and office workers.

-- Rep. Dianne Watson (a former ambassador) asks how we can advocate for freedom abroad if the president is above the law here.

If you get a chance, let me know your thoughts and suggestions about this critical issue.


Democrats Hold Hearing on Illegal Spying

By Congressman John Conyers Jr.

t r u t h o u t | Statement

Friday 20 January 2006

There can be no doubt that today we are in a constitutional crisis that threatens the system of checks and balances that has preserved our fundamental freedoms for more than 200 years. There is no better illustration of that crisis than the fact that the president is openly violating our nation's laws by authorizing the NSA to engage in warrantless surveillance of US citizens.

The Bush Administration offers two arguments to justify their actions. First, they assert, that warrantless searches were authorized by the Afghanistan use of force resolution. Second, they say, the Constitution permits and even mandates such actions. To this member and indeed to most of our nation's legal community, neither argument is remotely plausible or credible.

As for the Administration's claim of statutory authority, a plain reading of the text of the resolution reveals that there is no reference whatsoever to domestic surveillance. Former Majority Leader Daschle told us that the resolution was narrowed from the Administration's initial request to avoid such construction, and the Attorney General went so far as to admit that they were told by Members of Congress that it would be "difficult if not impossible" to amend the law to authorize such a program. As Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe wrote me, "to argue that one couldn't have gotten congressional authorization ... after arguing that ... one did get congressional authorization ... takes some nerve."

In terms of inherent constitutional authority, this too flies in the face of both common sense and legal precedent. If the Supreme Court didn't let President Truman use this authority to take over the steel mills during the Korean War in 1952, and wouldn't let President Bush use the authority to indefinitely hold enemy combatants in 2005, it is quite obvious the constitution doesn't allow warrantless wiretapping of US citizens today. As Justice O'Connor wrote, "a state of war is not a blank check."

Perhaps what is most troubling of all is that if we let this domestic spying program continue, if we let this president convince us that we are at war, so he can do what he wants, we will allow to stand the principle that the president alone can decide what laws apply to him. I submit that is not only inconsistent with the principles upon which our Republic was founded, it denigrates the very freedom we have been fighting for since the tragic events of September 11. That is why we are holding today's hearing.


Informant: root


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