mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The 28 Pages Movement”: Rand Paul’s New Crusade; The Secret 9/11 Docs

Senator Rand Paul, the man of the hour when it comes to pushing back against government secrecy, is throwing his weight behind a fresh push to declassify 28 pages from a 2002 Senate inquiry into the causes of 9/11.

The Kentucky Republican is sponsoring legislation called the “Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Act,” which would force the release of the disputed pages. With his support, an important issue that has languished far too long may be finally gaining traction.

Paul is a big catch for the 28 pages movement, as advocates describe their effort. Former Florida senator Bob Graham, who has been banging the drum on the classified pages for years, will appear alongside Paul at a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday morning to lend his gravitas to the occasion.

Graham led the Senate inquiry and drafted the pages that have been kept under wraps. Without violating his oath of secrecy about specifics, the Democrat has been quite outspoken, saying the redacted pages “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier” of the 9/11 attacks. He has also said the U.S. government’s protective stance toward the Saudis allows them to continue spreading the extreme Wahhabi version of Islam that has led to the rise of ISIS.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has long been on record supporting the disclosure, and he is co-sponsoring the legislation. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is described as “definitely interested,” and as the 9/11 family members continue to press for answers, they hope the moment is coming when this long-festering report will see the light of day, either by legislative action or by President Obama deciding enough is enough.

North Carolina Representative Walter Jones, an anti-war Republican who has worked tirelessly on behalf of the 9/11 families, said he started reaching out to members of the Senate after a House resolution he sponsored in two successive Congresses failed to gain enough momentum. Bringing Paul aboard at this time, when the nation is focused on issues of government overreach and secrecy, could generate the momentum that until now eluded him.

“This has never been about me, this is about the pain of the families,” Jones told The Daily Beast. He said he had been in contact with several senators, all Democrats, and their staffs. Then he noted, “Rand Paul is my choice for president, so I reached out to his daddy, who had me on his show to talk about it.”

Ron Paul has a radio show where he promotes his libertarian views, and father and son agree that you can always look for excuses not to release something, but absent clear harm to national security, government is not supposed to keep things secret because they’re embarrassing.

“I don’t know if it might be embarrassing to the Bush administration, how close they were to the Saudi family,” Jones said. “I just don’t know. I can’t put my fingers on it.”

Jones and Massachusetts Democratic Representative Stephen Lynch wrote a letter to Obama almost a year ago reminding him that on two separate occasions he told family members that he would declassify the pages. “And he hasn’t kept his word,” Jones said, despite numerous conversations he and Lynch have had in the interim with administration officials.

The introduction that precedes the redacted pages says that in the course of the Senate committee’s inquiry, it found pretty significant leads about the possible sources of support for the 9/11 attackers. But unable to reach firm conclusions within the time frame of the report, and with the resources at hand, the committee passed the information to the FBI. Whether the FBI followed up with sufficient zeal is left to the imagination, and listening to Senator Graham, the answer seems to be no.

Graham has pressed forward on his own to compel the FBI through a Freedom of Information request to turn over some 80,000 pages of evidence to a federal judge in Florida, who is reviewing the information about the agency’s investigation of possible terrorist ties by a Saudi family in Sarasota who fled the country just before the attacks, leaving a new car in the driveway and dinner on the table.

Members of Congress with a security clearance can read the 28 pages in a secure room in the basement of the U.S. Capitol after first writing to the chairman and the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee for permission. Members can’t take notes or bring a staffer, and only a small number of lawmakers have taken the opportunity. A House resolution introduced in the last Congress and the current Congress by Jones and Lynch to declassify the pages has 15 co-sponsors, almost all of whom signed on after reading the pages.

Kentucky Republican Representative Thomas Massie, one of the signers, said in a press conference last year that reading the 28 pages was “shocking” and that he had to stop every couple of pages to “try to rearrange my understanding of history.” A fellow libertarian and frequent sidekick of Senator Paul, Massie tweeted a photo of himself and Republican Representative Justin Amash with Paul in the aftermath of the legislative battle that raged over the weekend. “These are the people in John McCain’s nightmares,” the caption read.

Jack Quinn, a Washington lawyer acting on behalf of the 9/11 families, is part of the legal team bringing accusations against the Saudi government in a long-standing civil suit in the Southern District of New York.

With or without the 28 pages, Quinn says, evidence of Saudi involvement is “28 feet high, way more than ample evidence to bring everyone to trial.” He blames “dilatory tactics” of the Saudis and others to have the case dismissed and thrown out. They’re on their third judge; the case has dragged on for so long the first two judges passed away.

The pages’ potential release has implications far beyond Congress. “This isn’t going to go away,” says Quinn. “There’s too much here that points to the culpability of people who held positions in the Saudi government.”

 

By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, June 2, 2015

June 3, 2015 Posted by | 911, Classified Documents, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Scandal Is In What’s Legal”: Holding Congress Accountable For National Security Agency Excesses

It didn’t generate much attention at the time, but in the closing days of 2012, while most of the political world was focused on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Congress also had to take the time to reauthorize the government’s warrantless surveillance program. A handful of senators — Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — proposed straightforward amendments to promote NSA disclosure and add layers of accountability, but as Adam Serwer reported at the time, bipartisan majorities rejected each of their ideas.

In effect, every senator was aware of dubious NSA surveillance — some had been briefed on the programs in great detail — but a bipartisan majority was comfortable with an enormous amount of secrecy and minimal oversight. Even the most basic of proposed reforms — having the NSA explain how surveillance works in practice — were seen as overly intrusive. The vast majority of Congress was comfortable with NSA operating under what are effectively secret laws.

With this in mind, Jonathan Bernstein asked a compelling question over the weekend and provided a persuasive answer: “If you don’t like the revelations this week about what the NSA has been up to regarding your phone and Internet data, whom should you blame?”

There is, to be sure, plenty of blame to go around. The NSA has pushed the limits; federal courts approved the surveillance programs; George W. Bush got this ball rolling; President Obama kept this ball rolling; and telecoms have clearly participated in the efforts.

But save plenty of your blame — perhaps most of your blame — for Congress.

Did you notice the word I used in each of the other cases? The key word: law. As far as we know, everything that happened here was fully within the law. So if something was allowed that shouldn’t have been allowed, the problem is, in the first place, the laws. And that means Congress.

It’s worth pausing to note that there is some debate about the legality of the exposed surveillance programs. Based on what we know at this point, most of the legal analyses I’ve seen suggest the NSA’s actions were within the law, though we’re still dealing with an incomplete picture, and there are certainly some legal experts who question whether the NSA crossed legal lines.

But if the preliminary information is accurate, it’s hard to overstate how correct Bernstein is about congressional culpability.

Towards the end of the Bush/Cheney era, there was a two-pronged debate about surveillance. On the one hand, there were questions about warrantless wiretaps and NSA data mining. On the other, there was the issue of the law: the original FISA law approved in 1978 was deemed by the Bush administration to be out of date, so officials chose to circumvent it, on purpose, to meet their perceived counter-terrorism needs.

In time, bipartisan majorities in Congress decided not to hold Bush/Cheney accountable, and ultimately expanded the law to give the executive branch extraordinary and unprecedented surveillance powers.

In theory, Obama could have chosen a different path after taking office in 2009, but the historical pattern is clear: if Congress gives a war-time president vast powers related to national security, that president is going to use those powers. The wiser course of action would be the legislative branch acting to keep those powers in check — limiting how far a White House can go — but our contemporary Congress has chosen to do the opposite.

This is, by the way, a bipartisan phenomenon — lawmakers in both parties gave Bush expansive authority in this area, and lawmakers in both parties agreed to keep these powers in Obama’s hands. What’s more, they not only passed these measures into law, they chose not to do much in the way of oversight as the surveillance programs grew.

OK, but now that the NSA programs are causing national controversies again, perhaps Congress will reconsider these expansive presidential powers? Probably not — on the Sunday shows, we heard from a variety of lawmakers, some of whom expressed concern about the surveillance, but most of whom are prepared to allow the programs continue untouched.

Indeed, for many lawmakers on the right, the intended focus going forward won’t be on scaling back NSA efforts, but rather, will be on targeting the leaks that exposed the NSA efforts.

Conservatives, in particular, seem especially eager to leave these powers in the president’s hands — even though they have nothing but disdain for this particular president. And as Jon Chait explained, support for the NSA programs from the right will matter a great deal: “The Republican response is crucial, because it determines whether the news media treats the story as a ‘scandal’ or as a ‘policy dispute.'”

Michael Kinsley, referencing campaign-finance laws, once argued that in Washington, the scandal isn’t what’s illegal; the scandal is what’s legal. I’ve been thinking a lot about this adage in recent days.

If the reports are accurate and the NSA is acting within the law, but you nevertheless consider the surveillance programs outrageous, there is one remedy: Congress needs to redraw the legal lines. At least for now, the appetite for changes among lawmakers appears limited, which only helps reinforce the thesis about who’s ultimately responsible for this mess.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 10, 2013

June 13, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: