Legislation Would Create Special Committee To Investigate Torture, Wiretapping And Other Practices
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WASHINGTON – A bill introduced in the House of Representatives today would create a congressional committee to examine national security policies including those related to torture, detention and surveillance. The Select Committee on National Security and Civil Liberties Act of 2009, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Robert Wexler (D-FL), would study the development, implementation and effectiveness of past and present U.S. government practices
“The establishment of this committee would be a significant and welcome step toward open government and would help to restore Americans’ faith in Congress,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. “It is vital that Congress play an active role in uncovering the truth about our government’s failed policies and chart the course for legislative reform to prevent their reoccurrence.”
The creation of a select committee is a necessary step in reaffirming the rule of law and, if created and run properly, could answer several critical questions about the efficacy of current and past national security policies and the impact they have had on innocent people. While prior Congresses have repeatedly amended national security laws in a piecemeal fashion, a holistic and top-to-bottom review of the interconnectedness of these laws is important for answering critical questions about their efficiency, effectiveness and improper use.
“For years our system of checks and balances has been off kilter. It’s time to realign them,” added Fredrickson. “After years of submitting to an aggressive executive branch, Congress has the obligation to serve as a check on the other two branches, and must reassert its authority. If Congress is truly committed to restoring American values of justice, it should pass this bill without delay so the special committee can begin its work.”
The ACLU is also urging the Department of Justice to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate torture crimes. The select committee should avoid granting any immunity that could thwart the prosecutor’s work.
“Torture is a crime, and no one is above the law,” added Fredrickson. “There is more than enough evidence in the public domain to warrant a criminal investigation.”