Call For Civil Liberties Board To Get Funded
For Immediate Release
February 21, 2006
Liberties Board Lies Dormant,
a Congressional Call for White House Action
Reps. Maloney, Shays, Udall and Thompson Lead Bipartisan Effort
to get Board funded and working
WASHINGTON, DC - As the Los Angeles Times reported this week, the Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created as part of the landmark intelligence reform bill in December 2004, has yet to begin working due to inadequate resources and delays in the appointment and confirmation process. A bipartisan group of 23 Members of Congress - led by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM) and House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) - is urging the president to give the board adequate resources and to support legislation that would give the board more power (http://www.house.gov/maloney/issues/Homeland/022106ltrCivilLiberties.pdf).
As administration officials were defending their civil liberties credentials recently in Senate hearings about domestic eavesdropping, the White House released its budget proposal, which made no mention of funding for the civil liberties board in FY07. The board's chair and vice-chair were finally confirmed by the Senate last week - more than 13 months after the board was created.
"With all of the potential civil liberties violations swirling, the president can make no better statement supporting civil liberties than giving this board teeth and getting it to work," said Maloney. "The domestic eavesdropping case is tailor-made for the civil liberties board, but the board doesn't even really exist yet. The administration completely refuses to say how much they will fund the board this year, if at all. The foot dragging has to stop now."
"The bottom line is, with more authority must come more oversight," said Shays. "As the Administration claims increased constitutional power it becomes even more important that the board be up and running, and has the teeth to do the job."
"Unfortunately, the deterioration of American civil liberties has been a persistent problem under this Administration," Udall said, "and now is a crucial time, when drastic measures are being taken to implement the independent Civil Liberties Oversight Board, as recommended by the 9/11 Commissioners."
"Clearly this Board has fallen prey to the unfunded mandate monster of the Bush Administration," said Thompson. "Our requests for funding have been ignored for nearly two years. There is no more appropriate time to get this board up and running than now when the federal government has abused its powers to spy on its own citizens. We will not achieve comprehensive national security unless that very security protects the basic rights and liberties that are guaranteed to our citizens. We must restore Americans' faith in the government."
In their letter, the Members of Congress urged the president to support the existing Maloney-Shays-Udall legislation (H.R. 1310) that would give the board the broader powers that were present in the original version of intelligence reform legislation, including subpoena powers.
The board was a top recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, but was not created with adequate authority. Because the board was created weaker than recommended, and because it has yet to meet, the commissioners gave the federal government a "D" grade on civil liberties in its final report card at the end of 2005.
The board is meant to be an independent panel that would investigate and report on possible governmental abuses of civil liberties.
Signing the letter to Bush were: Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Tom Udall (D-NM), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), George Miller (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Mark Udall (D-CO), JosÁ Serrano (D-NY), David E. Price (D-NC), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), Bob Filner (D-CA), Major R. Owens (D-NY), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Ed Case (D-HI), Lynn C. Woolsey (D-CA), Marty T. Meehan (D-MA), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA).