Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bizarre Argument in Congress;
Let's Do This!

Via Swerve Left, Brad Blog, and Dem Bloggers, I learned of the civil discourse petty tantrums held in the US Congress, regarding the Patriot Act, partly covered by C-Span.  I say "partly covered" because the Republicans turned off the microphones when they did not like what was being said.  

Karlo at Swerve Left points out the bizarre argument:
When discussing the federal government's demand for library records under the Patriot Act, one of the Republican reps started shouting at the Amnesty International representative--name some names? What librarians have been forced to turn over records? The AI rep did come up with a name, but the point is that any librarian who admits to having received a request by the government could be prosecuted under the Patriot Act! So we're in this bizarre catch-22 world in which the law forbids people from submitting evidence that is being demanded in order to demonstrate the extreme nature of the law.
In fact, this is doubly bizarre.  In addition to the catch-22 mentioned by Karlo, there is another oddity.  The implication was that if Amnesty International could not name any instances of librarians being subpoenaed, then their point was not a valid point.  After all, why complain about a provision of the law that never has been used?  The counterargument is that, if the provision has not been used by now, why keep it?

It would seem that, given the sunset provision of the law, the burden of proof should be on those who want to renew the law.  They should have to show that the law has been beneficial.  Rather than argue that it is uncommon for librarians to be subpoenaed, they should have to come up with cases in which such subpoenas have substantially advanced an antiterrorism case.

I suppose that one might argue that there have been such cases, but they cannot be revealed because of security concerns.  That would be hard to believe, though, because the Justice Department seems all too eager to trumpet anything that could possibly be spun in such a way as to suggest progress in the WOT.  Also, Congressional hearings can go behind closed doors if classified material has to be discussed.  They did not do that.  Rather, Rep. Senselessbrenner just got up and left.

Our current favorite, Rep. John Conyers, prepared a statement about this.  Unfortunately, the link to it on the house.gov website gives a "page not found" error.

Let's do this: the website for the House Committee on the Judiciary has a page that asks citizens to report instances of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse.  I allege that the hearing on the Patriot Act met those criteria.  
  • It was Fraudulent, because it did not serve its purported purpose.  Rather than being a forum for civil discourse, it was a platform for the majority to express their views.  
  • It was Wasteful, because they flew in witnesses and held a hearing, at great expense, yet did not further the cause of democracy.  
  • It was Abusive, because it denied the right of free speech to some participants.
So let's use their reporting page to point out to them that they are engaging in the very behavior that they claim to protect us from.  Perhaps it is obnoxious to do this, but I have already done it, so at least nobody else has to worry about being the first one to be obnoxious:  
Thank you for providing citizens with an opportunity to report fraud, waste, and abuse.  It has come to my attention that the House Committee on the Judiciary allegedly has been fraudulent, wasteful, and abusive.  Specifically, it has been reported that, during the recent hearings on the renewal of the Patriot Act, the Committee turned off the microphones when certain citizens attempted to speak, and the Committee Chairman, the Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., left the room.  If these allegations are true, then:

Fraud was perpetrated when the hearings were used to promote the agenda of the majority party, rather than promoting civil discourse.

Waste occurred, because the hearings were held at great expense, yet did not accomplish their intended purpose.

Abuse occurred, when those who tried to present opposing views were denied their right of free speech, and the right to petition their government for redress of grievances.

Given the seriousness of these allegations, I respectfully request that the Committee investigate this matter, and provide a full account to the citizens of our Great Nation.
I also submitted this comment to the House Minority section, to increase the likelihood of someone actually taking it seriously.