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Posted by on May 15, 2007 in At TMV | 2 comments

GWB’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Board

Did you know that President Bush has a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board? I didn’t, until now:

Newsweek:

The White House was hit by two sudden resignations late Monday when Paul McNulty, a top Justice Department official, and Lanny Davis, the only Democratic member of the president’s civil liberties watchdog board, announced they were stepping down.

AND

At the same time, Davis, a former Clinton White House official who had been named by President Bush to serve on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, sent a letter to the White House and his fellow board members protesting the panel’s lack of independence. In recent months, Davis has had numerous clashes with fellow board members and White House officials over what he saw as administration attempts to control the panel’s agenda and edit its public statements, according to board members who asked not to be identified talking about internal matters. He also cited in his letters criticisms by the former co-chairs of the September 11 commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, that the board had interpreted its mandate too narrowly and was refusing to investigate issues such as the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world.

Davis’s frustration reached a peak last month when White House lawyers engaged in what he described in his letter as “substantial” edits of the board’s annual report to Congress. Davis charged that a majority of the board sought to remove an extensive discussion of recent findings by the Justice Department’s inspector general of FBI abuses in the uses of so-called “national security letters” to obtain personal data on U.S. citizens without a court order. He also charged that the White House counsel’s office wanted to strike language stating that the panel planned to investigate complaints from civil liberties groups that the Justice Department had improperly used a “material witness statute” to lock up terror suspects for lengthy periods of time without charging them with any crimes.

When Davis protested the attempted deletions, he said the board was told that the White House lawyers feared that because the material witness law was used by U.S. attorneys, a new probe of that issue would become a part of the larger controversy over the firing of U.s. attorneys. “I found this reason to be inappropriate—and emblematic of the sincere view, with which I strongly disagreed, of at least some administration officials and a majority of the Board that the Board was wholly part of the White House staff and political structure, rather than an independent oversight entity,” Davis wrote in his letter.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • domajot

    I always thought the civil liberties board was a cruel joke.
    It was Bush’s ideas of a compromise – it gave him the ability to say there was one.

    The lack of indepence, though, was right there in its stated role. It could only offer information and advisories.
    Knowing how secretive the WH is, I’m not surprised that even the advice is secret, edited and put away in a dark place.

  • kritter

    Why bother to have the board in the first place, if it was to be just another tool of the WH with no independence???? I’m sure that was not the intent of the 9/11 Commission who recommended it in the first place. Good for Lanny Davis for resigning and coming out with the truth. More public servants need to be this vigilant.

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