Are you one of those people who wants to see what has been done in your name by the outgoing Bush administration? Are you frustrated by all the "we need to look forward, not backward" language from Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders? Well, now you can do something about it, by calling up your House member today and telling them to support John Conyers' H.R.104, a bill to "establish a national commission on presidential war powers and civil liberties."
From the text of H.R.104 itself, here is what Conyers is proposing:
There is established the National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the "Commission") to investigate the broad range of policies of the Administration of President George W. Bush that were undertaken under claims of unreviewable war powers, including detention by the United States Armed Forces and the intelligence community, the use by the United States Armed Forces or the intelligence community of enhanced interrogation techniques or interrogation techniques not authorized by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, "ghosting" or other policies intended to conceal the fact that an individual has been captured or detained, extraordinary rendition, domestic warrantless electronic surveillance, and other policies that the Commission may determine to be relevant to its investigation (hereinafter in this Act referred to as "the activities").
Sounds pretty good to me. But what is disheartening is that since Conyers introduced the bill on January 6, out of over 250 Democratic representatives only 11 have signed on to co-sponsor the bill so far.
To give them full credit here, Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Steve Cohen, Hank Johnson, and William Delahunt all signed on the day the bill was introduced. The very next day, Representatives Luis Gutierrez, Bobby Scott, Rick Boucher, Tammy Baldwin, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz all signed on as co-sponsors. And to show you that this isn't just tilting at windmills, while I was writing this article another name appeared -- Representative Janice Schakowsky.
But Conyers didn't stop at just introducing this bill. Yesterday, he also issued a massive report on what exactly he would like the commission to investigate. Here is the press release announcing his report, in full:
Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. released a nearly-500 page report documenting numerous abuses and excesses of the Bush administration. The report, titled "Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the presidency of George W. Bush," contains 47 separate recommendations designed to restore the traditional checks and balances of our constitutional system. Recommendations include calls for continued committee investigation, a blue ribbon commission to fully investigate administration activities, and independent criminal probes.
"Even after scores of hearings, investigations, and reports, we still do not have answers to some of the most fundamental questions left in the wake of Bush's Imperial Presidency," Conyers said. Pointing to allegations of torture and inhumane treatment, extraordinary rendition, warrantless domestic surveillance, the Valerie Plame Wilson-leak, and the U.S. attorney scandal, Conyers continued, "Investigations are not a matter of payback or political revenge - it is our responsibility to examine what has occurred and to set an appropriate baseline of conduct for future administrations."
In addition to the set of recommendations, the report contains a foreword by Chairman Conyers and detailed discussions of: the administration's legal approach to presidential power; the politicization of the Department of Justice; the administration's far-reaching assaults on individual liberty (including torture, extraordinary rendition, and warrantless domestic surveillance); the misuse of Executive Branch authority; the administration's retribution against its critics; and the administration's excessive secrecy, noncompliance with congressional oversight, and manipulation of pre-Iraq War intelligence.
You just have to love the report's title. The full report is available as a PDF file from the official press release page at the House Judiciary Committee's website.
So if you've ever openly advocated that we deserve to know what our government is doing in our name, now you can do something about it. You can support John Conyers in his efforts to see that the Bush/Cheney years don't just get swept under the rug. To do so, first check the list of H.R.104 co-sponsors (as I said, it changes whenever names are added). See if your representative's name is on that list. If it isn't, look up your representative's phone number, and give them a call. Let them know Conyers' efforts should be supported. Let them know you will support their co-sponsorship of H.R.104.
In short, let them know the American people want some answers. Do it today.
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
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