Subpoenas

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"Subpoenas"

Okay, good. I expected the big post-victory news to be about administration officials finally feeling the heat to comply with Democratic document requests lest they face a torrent of subpoenas and requests for sworn testimony. Instead, the House leadership fight took central stage. But here comes the oversight rushing back in. Sadly, an awful lot of our Senate Committee chairs (Lieberman, Conrad, Baucus, Rockefellet come to mind) strike me as fairly useless. And then there’s Joe Biden. I’m all about Carl Levin at Armed Services, but the Armed Services roster includes an awful lot of timid hawks (Lieberman, Clinton, Bayh, both Nelsons, Reed) so I’m not sure how much they’ll get done unless Jim Webb manages to give this crew a shot in the arm. That leaves the House, of course, but also Pat Leahy whose very good and leads a feisty Democratic team on the committee. Early returns look good to me:

With little more than two weeks gone since the elections that gave his party a majority in both houses, Mr. Leahy has already begun pressing the Justice Department for greater openness. In a letter last Friday, he asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to release two documents whose existence the Central Intelligence Agency, in response to a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union, recently acknowledged for the first time. Although their details are not known, the documents appear to have provided a legal basis for the agency’s detention and harsh interrogation of high-level terrorism suspects.

One document is a directive, signed by President Bush shortly after the September 2001 attacks, that granted the C.I.A. authority to set up detention centers outside the United States and outlined allowable interrogation procedures.

Obviously, though, the administration’s not going to go quietly. There are going to need to be subpoenas, and lawsuits and all sorts of mess. Not only is this administration “obsessed with secrecy” but these kind of inquiries aren’t leading to, say, possibly embarrassing revelations about the White House travel office, they’re leading to serious war crimes, major violations of constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, and what you can only call a large-scale aversion to following the all. Torture, surveillance, detentions, it’s all in the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction.

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