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REAUTHORIZATION OF THE
FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 2005
Washington, DC. The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 8:30 a.m., in Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, the Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (Chairman of the Committee) presiding.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The meeting will be in order, a quorum for the taking of testimony is present. This hearing has been called by the Democratic Members of the Committee pursuant to clause 2G)(1) of Rule 10 of the Rules of the House of Representatives. They have chosen the witnesses. They have also chosen the topic of the hearing, and the Chair now recognizes the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers to make his opening statement.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, this is a special hearing brought by the request of the Democratic side of the House of Representatives. I thank you for complying with it. There are few issues more important to this Committee, and I might add, the Congress, than the war against terror and the PATRIOT Act that accompanied it from a legislative perspective.
This not only affects the rights and privacy of every American, but it impacts, the extent to which our Nation is able to hold itself out as a beacon of liberty as we advocate for democracy, both here and around the world.
For many of us, this process of hearings is not merely about the extension of 16 expiring provisions that sunset in the PATRIOT Act, but it is about the manner in which our Government uses its legal authority to prosecute the war against terror, both domestically and abroad.
And as we hear from our witnesses today, I think we will demonstrate that much of this authority has been abused.
We learn from Amnesty International about the routine torture and degradation of detainees in American-run prisons that clearly and obviously violate American and international law.
Both then White House counsel Gonzalez and the then Attorney General of the Department of Justice, all with others, conspired to create an end run around the international and United States laws that criminalize that sort of behavior. While the Justice Department has supposedly reversed these opinions, it still refuses to charge those in its jurisdiction.
We expect that there will be testimony concerning the illegal detention and mistreatment of individuals at Guantanamo Bay. A
Federal Court has found their detention and denial of legal process to be unconstitutional under the fifth amendment.
And after the recent confirmation that jailers have, in fact, desecrated the Koran on more than one occasion, it is clearly time for the military to shut the Guantanamo facility down, and I join with those Members of Congress that have urged that that happen. We will also learn about the abuse of the immigration system to unjustifiably detain and harass men of Middle Eastern descent. The Department of Justice has held over 1,000 people in the wake of 9/11 and the Inspector General has found the detentions to violate the law. But no one has been punished and nothing has been done to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
Finally, we will hear about the failure of our Administration's racial profiling tactics employed in the war against terror. Not only are tactics like these immoral, they have been proven to be completely useless in the war on terror.
For example, the Government's registration of 80,000 Middle Eastern men who did nothing, did nothing but create a deportation nightmare for families who had long been upstanding members of our communities. And not a single terrorist was found.
Yesterday, the President announced with the usual fanfare that we need to not only reauthorize
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman's time has expired.
As I said earlier when I called this hearing to order, this hearing was requested by the Democratic Minority. The Democratic Minority also stated what the scope of this hearing would be, which would be the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act. I am disturbed that some of the testimony that has been presented in written form by the witnesses today are far outside the scope of the hearing which the Democratic Minority called and which they said in their letter.
I am also disturbed that a number of the Members of this Committee who decided it was important to have this hearing and who sent me the letter, which I complied with, aren't here this morning. Members have changed their travel schedules in order to participate in the hearing which they called. But, apparently they decided it wasn't important enough to show up, even though they thought it was important enough to have this hearing. And I am going to read off their names because these are the people who decided the hearing was important enough to call, but not important enough to participate in. Rick Boucher of Virginia, Zoe Lofgren of California, Anthony Weiner of New York, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Gerald Nadler of New York, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Martin Meehan of Massachusetts, and Adam Schiff of California.
They are AWOL. And apparently they have decided that this hearing is not important enough to participate in. Now
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CONYERS. I wanted to raise a point of order but I will be happy to wait.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Now, this Chair has bent over backwards to be fair to the Minority and everybody else and to provide
TRIOT Act. We have had eleven hearings at the full and Subcommittee level here. The Minority has been offered to provide witnesses at all of the Subcommittee hearings. The two full Committee hearings included the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. And this shows that I have worked in a bipartisan manner to give everybody an opportunity to express their concerns about the 16 sections of the PATRIOT Act that were subjected to the sunset.
At each one of the hearings which were held at the Subcommittee level, the Minority had at least one witness, sometimes two, and there was an additional Subcommittee hearing that was held at the end of last month at the request of the Minority, where they were able to choose the scope of the topics that were discussed at this hearing.
I also point out the American Civil Liberties Union has testified four times before at the Subcommittee level. I guess they weren't able to say what they planned to say, and that is why they're brought back here for the fifth time.
Now, since commencing this latest series of oversight hearings on the PATRIOT Act, we have examined those provisions that are set to expire at the end of this year and the scope of the hearings has been broadened at the request of the Democrats to include provisions that will not sunset and some issues that are only tangentially related to the PATRIOT Act have also received formal Committee consideration. This was at the request of the Minority. And it is a request that I was happy to grant so that there would be full and complete discussion of this law.
Now, the American people expect and deserve that Members of Congress will approach terrorism prevention in a thoughtful, factual and responsible manner. All too often, opponents of the PATRIOT Act have constructed unfounded and totally unrelated conspiracy theories, erected straw men that bear no relation to reality, engaged in irresponsible and totally unfounded hyperbole, or unjustly criticized or impugned the honorable law enforcement officials entrusted with protecting the security of the American people. These efforts that which often bear no relation to the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, coarsen public debate and undermine the responsible, substantive examination which must inform this Committee and Congress' consideration of this critical issue.
As the Members of this Committee know, I have great respect for the Rules of the House, and believe they should be enforced fairly and uniformly. In keeping with the spirit of those rules, it is the Chair's intention to limit the scope of the hearing to the topic that was chosen by the Democratic Minority that called this hearing and chose the witnesses, which is the "Reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act.” This should be a serious hearing on a serious subject and not a forum for assertions or complaints that concern matters unrelated to the PATRIOT Act.
Members and witnesses are advised that questions and testimony not falling within the subject matter of the hearing chosen by the Democrats will not be included in the hearing record pursuant to House Rule 11, section (k)(8).
We will now hear testimony from the witnesses. Gentlemen from