William Barr Has a Long History of Abusing Civil Rights and Liberties in the Name of ‘National Security’

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on William Barr’s nomination to be the next attorney general of the United States, offering senators an opportunity to scrutinize his record and views.

Such scrutiny is especially crucial in the Trump era. As we’ve seen throughout his time in office, from imposing the Muslim ban to the recent shutdown fight over border wall funding, President Trump has tried to use “national security” as a pretext to justify discriminatory or otherwise illegal policies.

That’s why his nomination of William Barr should concern everyone — because Barr has a long record of doing the same thing during the George H.W. Bush administration. If confirmed to be Trump’s attorney general, Barr could enable the president to act on many of his worst instincts.

Defending discriminatory profiling

In the lead up to the Persian Gulf War, the FBI questioned hundreds of Arab-Americans. It claimed these interviews were to solicit information about terrorism. Barr, who served as deputy attorney general at the time, defended the FBI’s actions, insisting that they were needed “to solicit information about potential terrorist activity and to request the future assistance of these individuals.”

Community activists said that the FBI was singling them out and questioning their loyalty because of their identity. Many of the people who were questioned said that they were interrogated about their political views and travel plans and if they personally knew terrorists — based not on actual evidence, but on national origin. As an official charged with upholding the law, Barr should know not only are such practices offensive, ineffective, and a waste of limited resources, but they also undermine the very constitutional rights he swore to protect.

Supporting secret military trials

And Barr’s history doesn’t stop there.

Following the 1988 Lockerbie Bombings, Barr floated the idea of the president convening secret military tribunals to try people accused of involvement with suspected terrorist activities. Barr revived the idea of secret military trials after the 9/11 attacks and testified in support of President George W. Bush’s decision to order them without congressional authorization.

Barr told the Senate that the president has the power to order such trials as long as he cites “national defense” interests. Barr said that “no war need be declared for this power to come into being,” and that there is “no geographical limit” for the president to exercise such powers. Anyone declared a foreign adversary, he said, “is not entitled to constitutional protections.”

More recently, Barr’s belief that the president has virtually unchecked security powers is also seen in his defense of the first version of Trump’s Muslim ban.

Such beliefs are in keeping with his sweeping views of executive power. Indeed, Barr has said that “the real threat to domestic liberties is the artificial restriction of our powers of national defense by gratuitously expanding constitutional guarantees beyond their intended office.”

Endorsing detention and denying rights

Barr’s nomination should trouble anyone worried about executive overreach, especially as Trump is trying to go beyond his authority to ban asylum-seekers and expand detention, including the separation of parents from their children.

During the George H.W. Bush-era, Barr endorsed the administration’s use of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay to detain Haitians seeking asylum in the U.S., denying them access to legal advice during their asylum proceedings. A federal judge rebuked the government for indefinitely detaining the Haitians and denying them access to legal counsel.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, has announced that it will force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims for protection are processed. And right now, the president is threatening to formally declare a national emergency in order to build his border wall without congressional approval or appropriations.

As Trump leads attacks on civil liberties and the rule of law, often by making false claims about national security, senators must ask Barr about his troubling record and make sure that he will not become a rubber stamp for the president’s unlawful actions.

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Anonymous

If Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer were smart, they would first convene a Leahy style "Truth Commission" to primary investigate the George W. Bush DOJ attorneys that green-lighted torture, Gitmo and warrantless domestic spying ASAP. It would create a "deterrent effect" for future DOJ attorneys that betray their constitutional Oath of Office (which includes "domestic enemies to the Constitution"). There would be little to no penalties for those that followed those illegal orders (trading conditional immunity from criminal prosecution for truth telling leading to reforms). Most torturers, interrogators, prison guards and torture doctors didn't attend law school, so the Bush DOJ attorneys are most culpable. After almost 20 years of no accountability, this is the only way to deal with government officials that are disloyal to their Oath of Office. Pelosi and Shumer need to seize this moment!

AnonymouS

Don't you think that's what this is all about, "domestic enemies to the Constitution," each with their perspective of 'truth' in a partisan self-realty?
Only there must be a key to this for the nation, based on the merits and the values of truth. For instance, there are several ideas on how to describe or define fascism as we see the world today; I've found the best one that works for me is given by a means which determines 'truth.' The best and most applicable way for us to determine truth is through the means of the dialectic -- but the way that most supports fascism is through, marketing and promotion (propaganda).
So, perhaps the best way to show what a 'domestic enemy' is in truth, is how unreasonable/ or reasonable they are in their character.

Anonymous

The ACLU has lost it's mission. Where were they when over 250 teachers were removed as a RIF from DCPS in 2009 without due process?

A bunch of middle class, mostly black women of some maturity, were removed on Friday afternoon while the priniple read them a short letter of dismissal in private. They had 24 hours to collect their stuff, on a Saturday where they got little press.

The ACLU supports high profile cases for free like President Trump's alleged liaison, Stormy Daniels, among others. It focuses on those who agree with them and draw sensationalized press, rather than the real underdogs who have been cheated and abused. Shame on their smug bipartisan views.

Anonymous

i totally admire ACLU’s work and know they cannot help everyone. ACLU speak for those who cannot help themselves legally or who would receive predudicial treatment if left to their own defense.

antiracist

Barr's collusion with Daddy Bush's pardons of the Iran-Contra felons might presage more pardons now for the current GOP criminals.

Daughter Of Ret...

I truly believe that the hasty creation of the Department Of Homeland Security after 9/11 was the root cause of many evils sprouting in our nation. Immigration & Naturalization, Customs & Border Patrol were under the auspices of the Department Of Justice; since the reorganization into ICE, it is clear that Justice is no longer a factor in their operations.

Anonymous

"since the reorganization into ICE, it is clear that Justice is no longer a factor . . ."
Astute point!

Anonymous

ICE detention units have investors from the riches banks and institutions. I explain this because corruption today comes in the form of the very rich whose investment portfolios are more important to them than human life and the suffering that private prisons inflict in their inmates which has been documented. Geo group for example who invested in Trumps corrupt Presidency race, whose name changes periodically as they hide, and multiply, they have a record of not just staff to inmate crimes, but staff to staff crimes if you are female do not take a job in ICE as you have no protection like the inmates have no protection inside those walls of terror.

Anonymous

The senate shouldn't even listen to what Barry has to say..his record speaks loudly and a person like that never changes which he has already shown between the Bush years and now...he won't recuse himself from the Mueller investigations and he won't follow the constitutional..that's why trump picked his newest lapdog

Anonymous

He brought workplace bullying & mobbing (psychological torture; suicides and all) to verizons workplace as he was the General Counsel during this reign of terror at the evil empire. It is striking that the tactics used came right from the nazi's secret stasi police handbook of zersetzung.

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