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Ear to the Ground

Bush’s Pseudo-Watchdog Takes a Beating

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Posted on Dec 6, 2006

President Bush’s puppet Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board held its first public meeting on Tuesday, getting an earful from civil liberty advocates and experts, including the ACLU’s Caroline Fredrickson, who remarked: “Clearly, you’ve been fiddling while Rome burns.” The group, though conceived by the 9/11 Commission and created by Congress, holds little power and its members serve at the pleasure of the president.


CNET News:

Of the 10 such representatives who spoke on panels at the meeting, many urged the group to probe more deeply into the constitutional issues surrounding electronic surveillance, data mining and swapping, and terrorist watch list programs conducted by the government. Some didn’t mince words.

“When our government is torturing innocent people and spying on Americans without a warrant, this board should act—indeed, should have acted long ago,” Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C., office, told the panel in her testimony.

Training her gaze on the five presidentially appointed board members, she added: “Clearly, you’ve been fiddling while Rome burns.”

The board, borne out of an act of Congress in 2004 based on recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, has been dogged before. 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean, congressional Democrats, and watchdog groups accused the Bush administration of not taking the endeavor seriously and dragging their feet in nominating members and getting the group up and running.

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By Richard, December 8, 2006 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Judging from the dearth of comments (it’s Dec. 8 and mine is the second), no one’s been watching the watchdogs.
  Actually, what we have here is an intentional failure to communicate. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board has some pages on the White House Web site. It had a press release announcing the public meeting to be held at Georgetown University Tuesday—but the press release didn’t say what city Georgetown University is in. Does that say something about why public attendance at the meeting was low?
  Libertarians’ primary criticism of the board is that it has no teeth because it serves at the pleasure of the president. Why would a Republican-controlled Congress put a body assigned the task of monitoring civil-liberties violations by the government in the hands of the person who is authorizing such violations? (OK. So that was a rhetorical question.)
  Tuesday’s was the first public meeting—all previous meetings have been private. The board does not have the security clearance to look at specific details of an agency’s operations, so it apparently receives only sales pitches from federal spy agencies about how they are at once protecting our person and our civil liberties from those who, as Dick Chaney would say, “hate our freedoms.”
  The chairman of the board is a Bush-family friend and crony of Alberto Gonzales, and another board member is the relative of someone who was killed on one of the hijacked planes on Sept. 11—a clear conflict of interest when the nominal goal of the board is to monitor civil-liberties violations, not win the “War on Terror.”
  Finally, the board’s first-annual report to Congress is scheduled for March. That’s March 2007—a year after is was sworn in, and more than two years since the board was mandated by Congress. Can our civil liberties can hold out that long?
  I’ve been covering the board on the above Web site since March.

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By Margaret Currey, December 6, 2006 at 12:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The person named Webb answered the president the right way when he said “that is between me and my boy, this administration is not at all for the people, you must remember when they wave the flag and say things like must finish the job and a lot of other sayings what they are not saying is we would like democracy to flounder, because they have bought out the press, have made voting not a privilage for all but only for those on their side, people have died for voting rights and now this administration looks at those who are not rich as having no brains.  When voting rights are silenticed and women’s rights are being ignored and the poor be dammed, we are no better than a banana republic.

Margaret from Vancouver, Washington

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