By Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
What a difference an election makes! If you ever wanted to see the impact of Congressional oversight now that Democrats are back in the majority, you donâ€™t have to look much farther than the events of the past two days.
Yesterday, I chaired a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee to begin restoring oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice. At the hearing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced some tough questions from Republican and Democratic senators alike about the Bush Administrationâ€™s policies relating to domestic spying, habeas corpus, prisoner interrogation techniques, and many other important issues.
Not coincidentally, the day before the hearing, the Bush Administration announced the termination of its illegal domestic spying program — agreeing instead to submit warrants through the FISA Court as required by law, a solution Democrats had called for over many months while we were in the minority.
In short, Democrats in Congress are beginning to return real oversight to Washington — something that is sorely needed and long overdue. Weâ€™re starting to see results, but thereâ€™s still much to be done to restore real checks and balances to our federal government, stop the erosion of our civil liberties, make government work better, and prevent further abuses by the Bush Administration. These problems have accumulated over the past 6 years of Republican rule, and we canâ€™t fix everything overnight.
So we have a lot of work ahead of us — but as weâ€™ve seen over the last few days, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Iâ€™m going to need the support of millions of Americans standing with me in this fight for our basic rights and freedoms. I hope youâ€™ll help me build this grassroots support.
Invite your friends and family to sign up to join the Green Mountain PAC team today — and letâ€™s work together to restore the civil liberties of all Americans.
In the 32 years since I first came to the Senate — during the era of Watergate and Vietnam — I have never seen a time when our Constitution and fundamental rights as Americans were more threatened by our own government. Just this last weekend, the President and Vice President said they intend to override the will of the American people, as expressed in the most recent national elections, and ignore actions of Congress, to escalate the war in Iraq.
Whatâ€™s more, the President has issued signing statement after signing statement declaring the law to be not what Congress passed and he has signed, but what he finds convenient. And, regrettably, the Administration has all too often refused to answer the legitimate oversight questions of the duly-elected representatives of the American people — including failing to come clean with the details about their interrogation and detention policies and practices.
Then thereâ€™s the issue of domestic wiretaps. We must engage in all surveillance necessary to prevent acts of terrorism, but we can and should do that in ways that protect the basic rights of all Americans, including the right to privacy. While the Presidentâ€™s reversal is a good first step, there are still several outstanding questions that remain. Will the Bush Administration go to the FISA Court for approval of every individual proposed wiretap, or merely seek broad approval of the overall program? Attorney General Gonzales did not answer that question in yesterdayâ€™s hearing — a crucial answer that must be learned.
We have a democratic government in which Congress is entitled to know and review government actions. The President and Vice President of the United States should not be operating a secret and separate regime in which their official acts and policies cannot be known by the peopleâ€™s elected representatives.
Clearly, there is still much work to be done to repair the damage inflicted on our Constitution and civil liberties during the last six years — and Iâ€™m going to need your help to accomplish it.
Please invite your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to stand with us and join Green Mountain PAC today!
Thank you so much for your continued support. Iâ€™ll be sure to keep you informed about our progress over the coming days and weeks.
U.S. Senator (D-VT)
P.S. Please forward this email to everyone you know! Help me build the grassroots support we need to bring real, lasting change to America.