Protecting Your Freedom

The LA Times had a story yesterday about the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Most notable thing about the Board, created shortly after 9/11? It has yet to meet.

Writer Richard B. Schmitt's drops this wonderful line:

Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and concern over the qualifications of some of its members — one was treasurer of Bush's first campaign for Texas governor has kept the board from doing a single day of work.

I bet Bush wishes he could find his way onto that board. I mean really, he could go back to mountain biking and brush clearing...
The inaction is especially noteworthy in light of recent events. Some Republicans joined Democrats to delay renewal of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act because of civil liberties concerns. And the disclosure in December that Bush approved surveillance of certain U.S. residents' international communications without a court order has caused bipartisan dismay in Congress.

"Obviously, civil liberties issues are critically important, and they have been to this president, especially after 9/11," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, adding that the White House had moved expeditiously to establish the board. "We do not formally nominate until we are through the background investigation and the full vetting. It takes time to present those nominations to the Senate. But now that they have been confirmed, that is a good thing."

Four and a half years to vet candidates? Harriet Miers seemed to pass her vetting pretty quickly. Lets see how they did selecting members for this board. Surely they'd find independent voices and people with experience defending civil liberties.
The board chairwoman is Carol E. Dinkins, a Houston lawyer who was a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration. A longtime friend of the Bush family, she was the treasurer of George W. Bush's first campaign for governor of Texas, in 1994, and co-chair of Lawyers for Bush-Cheney, which recruited Republican lawyers to handle legal battles after the November 2004 election.

Dinkins, a longtime partner in the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins, where Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales once was a partner, has specialized in defending oil and gas companies in environmental lawsuits.


The board vice chairman is Alan Charles Raul, a Washington lawyer who first suggested the concept of a civil liberties panel in an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times in December 2001. Raul, a former Agriculture Department general counsel currently in private practice, has published a book on privacy and the digital age and is the only panel member with apparent expertise in civil liberties issues.

The panel's lone Democrat, Lanny J. Davis, has known Bush since the two were undergraduates at Yale. Civil liberties groups regard the Washington lawyer, who worked in the Clinton White House, as likely to be a progressive voice on the panel.

The board also includes a conservative Republican legal icon, Washington lawyer and former Bush Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, whose wife, Barbara, died in the Sept. 11 attacks. The fifth member is Francis X. Taylor, a retired Air Force general and former State Department counter-terrorism coordinator, who is chief security officer at General Electric Co.

Ok, so it's not perfect but at least it's there, right? I mean nearly 5 years later, its getting set up. Even if it can't actually do anything, at least it can bring civil liberties issues into the public eye.

Actually, no.
The law gives the panel access to classified information under certain circumstances, but not the power to subpoena documents. The board, which is within the Executive Office of the president, operates at the behest of the administration.

This administration's contempt for dissent and absolute disregard for the laws of the United States and the civil liberties and freedoms of its citizens is astounding.

The Bush administration waited nine months to send the nominations of Dinkins and Raul to the Senate for approval. The three other members of the board did not require Senate confirmation, but they could not function without a chairman.

Doubts about funding also developed. The administration proposed an initial budget of $750,000, which lawmakers doubled. But critics consider that far from adequate. A similar board in the Homeland Security Department was initially proposed to have a $13-million budget.

Some members of Congress are concerned that the administration may still be trying to shortchange the board.

Concerned thatt the administration may be trying to shortchange the board? No shit! The deductive power of our Congress members boggles the mind.

I started reading Orwell's 1984 last night. (I know I still haven't finished Collapse yet, sue me.) The first 20 pages really make you stop and think about our administration. This story doesn't do anything to raise my opinon.

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