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Shahid Buttar is the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
Reflections on the 9/11 attacks are important and moving. But most overlook the enduring legacy of the attacks, in the form of the vastly greater damage done to American principles over the past decade. Whether in the context of surveillance, torture, or the congressional cowardice that has enabled them, our leaders have sullied the legacy of an America that once inspired the world.
The last ten years have witnessed an assault on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans, led largely by the FBI. Appointed mere days before the 9/11 attacks, Director Robert S. Mueller III has guided the bureau through the resurrection of many long discredited practices from its COINTELPRO era. Yet, the Obama administration has proposed extending Mueller's term as FBI director. Congress should reject the proposal and insist on a nominee from outside the bureau to restore accountability, law and order.
This Veterans’ Day, executive impunity for human rights abuses was once again in the news. Former President George W. Bush openly admitted authorizing techniques long recognized as torture in his recent memoir, and last week, Attorney General Eric Holder resigned the opportunity to file criminal charges relating to the CIA’s destruction of videotapes documenting torture.
Yesterday, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee submitted a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of 46 organizations. The letter raises concerns about the 2008 FBI Guidelines promoted by then-Attorney General Mukasey.
The letter reads, in part:
We write to request further congressional oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (“FBI”) operations pursuant to the 2008 Attorney General’s Guidelines, which were implemented over congressional objections and threaten the constitutional rights of all Americans. In the wake of the Washington Post series exposing the secrecy and unaccountability of our nation’s intelligence establishment, the Senate Judiciary Committee has a responsibility to seek transparency into FBI operations and restore the Bureau’s accountability.
Despite promises of change, the Obama administration has proven itself either unwilling--or unable--to shift the paradigm driving increasingly invasive surveillance, or increasingly pervasive profiling according to race, religion, and national origin. Nearly halfway through the Obama administration's term, the battle to banish the Bush administration's policy legacy remains largely unfought, let alone won.
But this is no time for progressive and libertarian constitutionalists to throw in the political towel. While "change you can believe in" may have been a premature promise from our president, we at the grassroots enjoy ample opportunities to shift the landscape in DC.