On Thursday, January 4th, Democrats will take control with the swearing in of the 110th Congress. The midterm elections and resulting leadership changes give the ACLU hope for increased oversight and better protections for our civil liberties.
We hope that the new Congress will be aggressive and investigate the abuses of the Bush administration. There are plenty of issues to examine: NSA Spying, rendition and torture, the Military Commissions Act, and illegal surveillance of peace groups. Many of the ACLU’s concerns were covered in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post.
With its new leadership, we urge the 110th Congress to protect the freedoms and values enshrined in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Lawmakers have not always stood up against this administration’s dismantling of civil liberties, so we’ll need to hold their feet to the fire.
Indeed, a recent New York Times editorial talked about the abysmal failures of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Created by Congress, this “oversight” board lacks independence, has no subpoena power, and has little, if any, actual oversight authority. At its lone public hearing late last year, I was joined by my colleagues on the left and right and called for that board to “conduct aggressive investigation and oversight over the administration’s dismantling of the civil liberties of all Americans.”
This new Congress must show real leadership and restore fundamental due process. The only thing scarier than a government that would take away our basic freedom is a Congress that would let it happen.