Congress may be a tad absorbed these days by the country’s horror show of an economy, but lobbyists at the American Civil Liberties Union say that won’t stop them from pushing an expansive legislative agenda to try to undo many of the Bush administration’s national security policies.
“It’s become a talking point that, because the economy is in such disarray, somehow Congress can’t pay any attention to the crimes of the Bush administration,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, this morning. “We reject that. We know Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
During a conference call with reporters, Fredrickson laid out the extensive shopping list of goals the ACLU plans to pursue during the incoming Obama administration. Among the top priorities: congressional investigations into the use of torture and illegal surveillance methods, repealing the Military commissions Act, reforming the Patriot Act, and pushing back the Real ID Act.
As far as investigations go, the ACLU is less interested in seeing Bush administration officials prosecuted than in uncovering the facts about Bush administration policies during the past eight years, Fredrickson said.
“The real issue is preventing those abuses from happening again,” she said. “And prosecution can serve as an important disincentive to others from doing it again, but it isn’t a prerequisite.”
She added that the group would like the Justice Department to expand its inquiries into the destruction of videotapes of military interrogations and into the department’s hiring practices under then Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.
Fredrickson also cautioned that Congress needed to investigate how certain surveillance methods were used, or abused, before deciding whether to reform or reauthorize them.
“Our goal is not to see an immediate rush to legislative action,” she said. “Congress needs to build a record.”