Saturday, June 11, 2005

Republicans Shut Down Patriot Act Hearing When Discussion Turns To Gitmo

Mike Allen in The Washington Post:

"After repeated criticism of the Bush administration, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday gaveled a hearing to a close and walked out while Democrats continued to testify -- but with their microphones shut off.

The hearing's announced topic was the USA Patriot Act, which granted broad new powers to federal law enforcement after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Republicans had presented several witnesses at earlier hearings who supported the administration's call for reauthorizing the legislation. But yesterday, when four witnesses handpicked by the Democrats launched into a broad denunciations of President Bush's war on terrorism and the condition of detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) showed his pique.

He urged witnesses to 'wrap it up' and repeatedly told committee members that their time for questioning had expired.

'We ought to stick to the subject,' the chairman scolded at the end. 'The Patriot Act has nothing to do with Guantanamo Bay. The Patriot Act has nothing to do with enemy combatants. The Patriot Act has nothing to do with indefinite detentions.'

'Will the gentleman yield?' Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) asked.

'No, I will not yield,' replied Sensenbrenner, 61, the heir to a paper fortune who is known for a brusque insistence on decorum. He completed his reproof of the witnesses and left the Rayburn House Office Building hearing room amid a cacophony of protests from Democrats seeking to be recognized.

Democrats charged that the episode was another example of Republicans abusing their control of Congress and trying to stifle dissent over Bush's approach to counterterrorism. During the two-hour hearing, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) accused Amnesty International of endangering U.S. soldiers because a top official of the group had called the prison at Guantanamo Bay a 'gulag.' Sensenbrenner did not allow a group official who was testifying, Chip Pitts, chairman of Amnesty International USA, to respond until Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) raised a 'point of decency.'

C-SPAN2 continued televising the proceedings for six minutes after Sensenbrenner had departed, with lettering on the screen explaining the strange circumstances."

Just another example of Bush's Republican Party trying to stifle free speech and bully the opposition into total submission. The preznit is famous for not wanting to hear any news, facts, or discussion that does not already agree with his world viewpoint and his tunnelvisioned myopia has infected the entire leadership of the Republican Party. Apparently in the Republican Party's view, Congressional hearings are supposed to be one-sided affairs where the ruling party gets to espouse its propaganda and the audience cooes its support, just like at Bush's "townhall meetings" where audience members have to sign loyalty oaths to the preznit and risk arrest if they ask Bush a tough question.

So Chairman Sensenbrenner cut off the mics at yesterday's hearing when the Democrats moved off Bush's message and started asking questions about Guantanamo Bay prison. You know, the infamous prison that Amnesty International called a "gulag" and the rest of the world thinks should be closed because we hold "terror suspects" there for years without any charges being filed and engage in torture, abuse, and murder when we "interrogate" them. Many prisoners we actually free after several years of imprisonment because it turns out they are innocent of any crimes against the U.S.

But Sensenbrenner didn't want to hear about prisoner abuse allegations at Guantanamo Bay yesterday. The Bush Administration never wants to hear about prisoner abuse allegations at Guantanamo Bay. They want you to think everything in Bush's "War on Terror" is constitutional and on the up-and-up. They want you to think Our Great Leader, George W., is keeping us safer from terrorism by stripping Constitutional Rights and allowing detainees to be held in a prison for years without access to legal counsel or even knowledge of the charges leveled against them. And just in case you don't agree with Our Dear Leader, they'll cut your microphone off and shut down the Congressional hearing since they run ever lever of government right now.

How do you think yesterday's Sensenbrenner debacle will play world-wide? Again, Mike Allen in the Post:

One of the witnesses then began giving impromptu testimony. James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said he thought the turn of events was 'totally inappropriate -- no mike on, and no record being kept.'

'But I think as we are lecturing foreign governments about the conduct of their behavior with regard to opposition,' Zogby said, 'I'm really troubled about what kind of message this is going to teach to other countries in the world about how they ought to conduct an open society that allows for an opposition with rights.'

Sure, we have an "open society" in Bush's America. Open your mouth and you'd better espouse the Bush party line in Washington or they'll shut you down

Makes me proud to be an American.

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