Four days ago, I noted that although Congressman David Dreier specifically promised during the short Patriot Act debate last week that Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, would begin hearings to investigate civil liberties abuses under the Patriot Act “within the next 90 days” and “as vigorously as possible.”
That promise was made over 10 days ago now. Just 80 days are left to go, and there’s still no sign of any action on the part of Congressman Smith to organize hearings on the Patriot Act. In fact, soon after Dreier made his promise, Smith left Capitol Hill along with the rest of his colleagues to go on a week’s vacation. That doesn’t count, I think as working to establish hearings on the Patriot Act abuses as vigorously as possible.
U.S. Representative Jared Polis has slammed the congressional Republicans for failing to establish these Patriot Act hearings. Speaking on the floor of Congress last week, Polis commented:
“It has been said, Oh, there hasn’t been time to hold hearings in this Congress because the Judiciary Committee just constituted itself. Well, they found time to hold 10 hearings on items that have not even come to the floor. So surely there would have been time for one hearing on an item that everybody knew was going to expire and needed to be dealt with.
Those of us who joined Congress in the last session as well as our new Members this session, many of whom are on the other side of the aisle, have not had any classified briefings on how this authority that has been given to the Federal Government has been used.
How can we exercise meaningful oversight with regard to these three provisions of the Patriot Act , and the Patriot Act in general, if we are not given the benefit of finding out exactly how these broad powers that have been given to the Federal Government have been used?”
The point, I think, is that as long as Lamar Smith and David Dreier continue to block efforts to hold investigations and hearings on the Patriot Act, meaningful oversight of the federal government’s vast new surveillance powers will be thwarted. That may be just what Congressmen Smith and Dreier have in mind.
If you’re not willing to accept this effort to prevent government accountability, there is something you can do. You can take advantage of your legal right, guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, to petition the government for redress of your grievance.
You can join the protest demanding repeal of the Patriot Act. Come to the side of the U.S. Capitol Building that faces the Washington Monument on Saturday, March 12 at Noon. Bring a sign of protest against the Patriot Act. There’s no hidden agenda in this protest, just a single message: It’s time for the Patriot Act to go!