The 1/6 committee’s threat to civil liberties

Glenn Greenwald wrote an excellent post questioning the constitutionality of the Select Committee on 1/6’s investigation.  All the abuses of power of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in an earlier are being repeated, this time with the support of self-described liberals. 

The committee’s mandate was to investigate why the Capitol Police were so unprepared to defend the Capitol against rioters, which is a proper and important matter to investigate.  

So is the role of the FBI, which had heavily infiltrated three of the major right-wing organizations, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.  To what degree did the FBI hold back its knowledge, or even possibly help instigate the riots?

What is not a proper topic for investigation is the activities and beliefs of private citizens.  Law enforcement is the function of the executive and judicial branches, not the legislative.  

The executive branch is responsible for investigating and prosecuting federal crimes.  The judicial branch is responsible for judging criminal charges and sentencing convicted criminals.

The investigative powers of Congress are limited to oversight of the executive branch and to research in connection with legislation.  It has no constitutional authority to investigate the activities of individuals just our of curiosity, or the desire to humiliate and punish.

Greenwald points out the extensive legal precedent for this, much of it dating from the McCarthy era.

The Biden administration dithers about its infrastructure plan, its social safety net plan and its voting rights legislation.  It declines to challenge the filibuster, allows an appointed parliamentarian to create obstacles to its legislative program and accepts limits on its power to spend on domestic needs.

But on other matters, there are no limits, constitutional, budgetary or otherwise.  One of these is the domestic war on terror, which is just as much of a threat to American constitutional rights as George W. Bush’s original war on terror.  The U.S. government is going after people based on their political opinions and their exercise of rights to express their opinions, or to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

If the United States sinks into a low-level civil war, like Northern Ireland’s, historians will recall the Biden administration’s “war on domestic terror” as an opening shot.

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None of this is a defense of Donald Trump and his actions on Jan. 6, 2020.  He called for protesters to assemble to intimidate Mike Pence into refusing to perform his constitutional duty to certify the Electoral College vote.

You can’t have democracy if candidates refuse to accept the outcomes of elections.  But in practical terms, Trump’s irresponsible actions could not have changed the outcome.

If Pence had refused to certify the vote, there would have been a quick appeal to the Supreme Court ordering him to do his duty.  If he had still refused, there would have been some sort of work-around to get the vote certified.  Assuming the none of these things happened, the offices of President and Vice President would have been vacant when Trump’s and Pence’s terms expired, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, next in line of succession, would have assumed the office.

I do think there is a Republican threat to democracy, but it does not come from protesters in the streets.  It comes from state legislatures tinkering with election laws to discourage voting by minorities, poor people and students.  The Biden administration’s priority should be voting rights, not a clampdown on protests.

Self-described liberal Democrats who support the clampdown on MAGA Republicans will be in for a nasty surprise when they find the government’s unconstitutional powers are turned against them.  

Civil liberties are indivisible.  If the rights of all are not respected, the rights of none will be safe.

LINKS

Civil Liberties Are Being Trampled by Exploiting “Insurrection” Fears: Congress’s 1/6 Committee May Be the Worst Yet by Glenn Greenwald.

Yes, VIrginia, There Is a Deep State by Matt Taibbi on TK News.

Florida Anarchist Imprisoned for Online Posts Prompted by Jan. 6 Riot by Natasha Leonard for The Intercept.

Virginia dad vilified for defending daughter shows rot at heart of system by Miranda Devine for the New York Post.

Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist | Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge by Meribah Knight, Nashville Public Radio, and Ken Armstrong, ProPublica.

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