Monday, July 10, 2006

Senate Live - July 10, 2006

UPDATE Tuesday Jul 11 @ 14:31

A Senate hearing on the subject of legislation for military tribunals was scheduled for today, and was held today. The witness's opening statements are online, as is Senator Leahy's.

Full Committee "Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: Establishing a Constitutional Process"

Mr. Steve Bradbury
Mr. Daniel Dell'Orto
The Honorable Theodore Olson
Professor Harold Koh
Mr. Paul "Whitt" Cobb
Lt. Commander Charles Swift
Professor Scott L. Silliman
Mr. Daniel Collins

Senator Leahy

Meanwhile, while there is news, there is no official acknowledgement (at this moment) in either the Whitehouse News or the Whitehouse press briefings archive regarding the July 7 policy letter by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England that aims to insure all detainees in the custody of US military (including those at Gitmo) are treated according to the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

U.S. will give detainees Geneva rights
By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY - Associated Press Writer

... White House spokesman Tony Snow said the policy, outlined in a new Defense Department memo, reflects the recent 5-3 Supreme Court decision blocking military tribunals set up by President Bush. ...

The policy, described in a memo by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, appears to change the administration's earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus not subject to the Geneva protections. ...

The memo was first reported by the Financial Times, a British newspaper, and was later distributed to reporters at the Pentagon.

Word of the Bush administration's new stance came as the Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings Tuesday on the politically charged issue of how detainees should be tried. ...

Under questioning from the committee, Daniel Dell'Orto, principal deputy general counsel at the Pentagon, said he believes the current treatment of detainees - as well as the existing tribunal process - already complies with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

"The memo that went out, it doesn't indicate a shift in policy," he said. "It just announces the decision of the court."

"The military commission set up does provide a right to counsel, a trained military defense counsel and the right to private counsel of the detainee's choice," Dell'Orto said. "We see no reason to change that in legislation."

UPDATE Tuesday Jul 11 @ 9:55

Senator Frist opens the session, and as far as Senate business is concerned, mentions only the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. He goes on to mirror the good economic news being "announced" by the administration and by general economic reports such as job growth and tax receipts. He notes that some of this growth can be attributed to the simplification of adhering to legal and administrative regulations, reductions in tax rates, and government exercise of fiscal restraint.

UPDATE Tuesday Jul 11 @ 8:50

Ahhh ... miss the opening statement, and the whole day becomes muddy. Well, from yesterday, here is Senator Frist outlining what he sees for the week. I doubt I'll follow the proceedings live, but will skim the record the day following.

It appears the Homeland Security Appropriations bill will consume most if not all of the week. As noted below, the subject covers plenty of ground.

Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, today [Monday, July 10] we will begin with a 1-hour period for morning business. At 3 o'clock this afternoon, we will start debate on H.R. 5411, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. Chairman Gregg will be here to manage the bill, and we hope that Members will come forward to offer amendments today. We will not have any rollcall votes during today's session, although I encourage Members to come forward with their opening remarks. We need to finish this bill this week and, therefore, Senators should be ready as soon as possible if they intend to offer amendments. I again encourage Senators to contact the bill managers if they would like to offer amendments so these amendments can be scheduled for the appropriate time.
The bill is being managed by Senators Gregg and Byrd.

Also, the Record from July 10 only has three amendments to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill - meaning the Record provides little in the way of a heads-up as to the specific issues that will be debated during the day.

H.R.5441 - Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007

Debate of July 10

Text of Amendments 4547 - 4549

The Senate is scheduled to resume at 2:00 PM today, with morning business until 3:00 PM, followed by consideration of H.R.5441 - the Homeland Security appropriations bill. A vote is expected to occur at 5:30 PM.

Although I'm not in tune with what Senator Frist has planned, there are a number of additional issues that are poised to come before the Senate, including:

  • the embryonic stem cell research "package" of bills (See UNANIMOUS CONSENT AGREEMENT -- H.R.810, S.2754, S.3504);
  • legislative line-item veto (H.R.4890);
  • modification to the estate/death tax (H.R.5638);
  • immigration reform (won't come up for debate, except as in morning business, although we're waiting for the vehicle for House/Senate conference and for the naming of conferees)

Other general subjects that are "warm" or "hot" before committees, and that could get mention from the floor of the Senate, if not action, include these:

  • allegations of US persons perpetrating wartime atrocities;
  • orderly military and civilian realignment with the government of Iraq;
  • jurisdiction and procedure relating to enemy combatant detainees;
  • legislation aimed to get Congress on the same page as the executive regarding surveillance activity;
  • resolution condemning unauthorized disclosure and publication of the NSA terrorist surveillance program, NSA phone call logging "allegation," and clandestine monitoring of financial transactions via SWIFT;
  • legislation aimed to shield reporters from an obligation to disclose sources in (some) civil and criminal actions; and
  • judicial nominations

This article may be of interest, not because I think it's the highest priority, but because it illuminates a disagreement as to how internet (where you are reading this) and telephone communications relate, vis-a-vis the burden on investigators for piercing one's personal privacy.

FBI plans new Net-tapping push
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: July 7, 2006

FBI Agent Barry Smith distributed the proposal at a private meeting last Friday with industry representatives and indicated it would be introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

I think personal privacy is largely an illusion. Not that I don't try to protect mine, but I sure as the dickens don't believe that the government has a serious interest in actually protecting or preserving anybodies privacy - only in preserving the illusion.

See recent Congressional measures that aim to study the removal of Social Security information from the face of military identification, the move toward SAFE ID, and the move toward imposing a requirement for suitable federal identification to undertake something as fundamental as becoming an employee. Privacy?


With regard to H.R.5441 - the Homeland Security appropriations bill, House Report 109-476 has this fairly humorous comment:


For the second year in a row, the President has submitted a budget request for DHS that assumes the Committee will almost double the amount of aviation security fees it collects from airline passengers. This proposed fee increase funds critical areas within the Department, permitting the Secretary and President to say that the budget request for fiscal year 2007 contains an increase of $2.1 billion or six percent from the current year. But the truth is, excluding new user fees in order to make a fair comparison, the President's request is a one percent increase from the current fiscal year. As the Committee noted last year, it lacks jurisdiction to enact such a fee proposal. The Committee views this repeated attempt to artificially inflate DHS' budget as counterproductive and has reduced funding throughout the Department to make up for the gap in essential program funding created by this gimmick.

But in all seriousness, many parts of the House report are fairly scathing political criticisms. I plucked the following partly because the juxtaposition of border control and immigration (a core mission) and "protection from terrorism" are not mutually exclusive objects, yet the phrasing in the report naturally leads most readers to a fairly strong reaction regarding the way the Committee sees enforcement priorities:


The Committee believes that border security and immigration enforcement are core DHS missions, and provides significant resources as well as extensive planning and performance requirements for these missions in fiscal year 2007. While the Committee supports the goals of the Department's recently announced Secure Border Initiative (SBI), it is apparent that this proposal was not fully incorporated into the fiscal year 2007 budget request. The Committee is concerned, absent a strategic management plan that links funding to results, the SBI will fail to realize the Department's desired outcomes. The Committee is committed to preventing such a failure and views fiscal year 2007 as a turning point in the improvement of our nation's border security systems. ...


Concern has been expressed since DHS was formed that, as the Department maintains principal focus on protecting our homeland from terrorists, it may degrade legacy DHS missions. The Committee continues to believe that the Department should not skew its priorities and funding requests to terrorism related missions, while leaving other critical missions to scramble for the remaining funds. ...

I strongly recommend skimming the House Report, because it provides a wealth of factual information regarding our port security (e.g., container inspection rate), border enforcement, workplace enforcement for employment eligibility, aviation security ("The Committee continues to be surprised that only six airports have opted to use non-federal screeners"), etc.

An interesting and over-arching issue is also presented, that being the incorporation of FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security. Some Congressmen (House and Senate alike) are of the opinion that this creates an additional layer of bureaucracy for FEMA - and they are angling to restore FEMA as an independent agency. Time will tell - that issue will not be resolved during today's short debate.

UPDATE @ 16:00

Having missed Senator Frist's opening, I found this article to be helpful as laying out a rough schedule for Senate action.

Senate to Hear Detainee Issue After Recess
by ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY - Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday the Senate is unlikely to take up legislation addressing the legal rights of suspected terrorists until at least after Congress's August recess.

Frist said Republicans are in the process of discussing their legislative options with Democrats and the Bush administration. Because the issue falls within the jurisdiction of several committees, members also are trying to coordinate their response.

Meanwhile, Senator Byrd's rant regarding the administration actions on Homeland Security (he characterizes them as representing a shortfall) are quite predictable from the contents of House Report 109-476, particularly the "Additional Views" presented by Obey and Sabo.

UPDATE @ 16:28

Having nothing to do with the Senate, but I found these interesting:

From ...

Divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit orders the entry of a preliminary injunction requiring Southern Illinois University School of Law to recognize a chapter of the Christian Legal Society as an official student organization: You can access today's ruling at this link.
Posted at 01:24 PM by Howard Bashman

And this one, where an ex-US Navy SEAL is suing Donald Rumsfeld for being detained in Iraq for 55 days ...

US filmmaker sues top military officials over 55-day Iraq detention

Cyrus Kar, the Los Angeles-based filmmaker of Iranian descent and former US Navy SEAL detained by US forces in Iraq for 55 days, has sued Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other top military officials in the US District Court for the Central District of California.

UPDATE @ 17:50

Judge Hogan Opinion regarding Representative Jefferson's (Democrat, Louisiana) assertion of Congressional privilege against search of his office for papers and other evidence of illegal corruption. I emphasize the word "illegal" because, to my way of thinking, there is such a thing as legal corruption. I readily admit that some people will insist that if it isn't illegal, it isn't corrupt.

Link to PDF of Opinion at the DC District Court website.

For the foregoing reasons, the Court has found that the search executed on Congressman Jefferson's congressional office was constitutional, as it did not trigger the Speech or Debate Clause privilege, did not offend the principle of the separation of powers, and was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, the Court will deny the motion for return of property. An appropriate order will accompany this Memorandum Opinion.
As for the Senate, I'm wondering what's up with the 5:30 vote that McConnell indicated was apt to occur today, so that Senators could plan their travels accordingly.

UPDATE @ 18:05

Senate stands in adjournment until 9:45 tomorrow. After 30 minutes of morning business, it will again take up H.R.5441 - the Homeland Security appropriations bill. There will be a recess from 12:30 to 2:15 for the weekly policy luncheons. According to Senator McConnell, Senators can expect votes to occur throughout the day - I assume these relate to proposed amendments to H.R.5441.


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