Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Poll Analyses
Share on Facebook 3 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/17/13

Dems to DOJ: "Very Troubled," "Inexcusable," "No Way to Justify This"

By       (Page 2 of 2 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page. (View How Many People Read This)   No comments
Author 29155
Follow Me on Twitter     Message John Nichols
Become a Fan
  (24 fans)

Goodlatte's statement was valid -- and important.

But it was even more important that Leahy voiced his parallel concern.

"The burden is always on the government when they go after private information -- especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources," said the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. "I want to know more about this case, but on the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden. I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government's explanation."

Attorney General Holder's testimony Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee was hardly revealing, as Holder explained that he had recused himself from the matter.

But that can't be the end of the inquiry -- or the response to it.

Strikingly, Leahy was backed up in his call for answers and action by an angry Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who described the Justice Department's seizure of the phone records as "inexcusable" and added, "There's no way to justify this." Reid went even further, saying Tuesday, "In my career, I've stood consistently for freedom of the press from encroachment by the national security community and will continue to do that. It's an issue I feel very strongly about and will look further whether more legislative action is needed in this regard to secure freedom of the press."

What might that mean? With encouragement from the White House, Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York, is preparing to reintroduce the media shield law that in 2009 died in the Senate. Among other things, the proposed law gives journalists who have been served subpoenas the option of appealing to a federal judge when they don't want to reveal their sources. It then falls to the jurist -- as opposed to the Department of Justice -- to determine whether the public interest in a story trumps the government's demand that sources be revealed.

"This kind of law would balance national security needs against the public's right to the free flow of information," argues Schumer. "At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case."

When the Department of Justice in a Democratic administration is accused of wrongdoing, it is vital that Democratic leaders in Congress step up to ask the tough questions -- just as it is vital for Republican members of Congress to be out front to check and balance Republican administrations.

Congressional oversight often comes with a partisan edge, and that's not entirely inappropriate. Partisanship animates and energizes oversight committees, ensures that inquiries are pursued and rejects bureaucratic responses.

Ultimately, however, congressional oversight is most effective when it comes from members of the party that controls the executive branch. The United States does not have a parliamentary system of government. Rather, our Constitution outlines a separation of powers between the branches of government. The separation was not designed to encourage partisan division but to assure that there would always be a checking and balancing of power -- regardless of party affiliation or allegiance.

Intense partisanship often leads members of Congress to "go to their corners." And rarely has the partisanship been more intense, more bitter, than now.

But Patrick Leahy has rejected the defensive position into which the weakest of partisans collapse. Instead, he has gone into the same checking-and-balancing stance that has been adopted by Bob Goodlatte. This is as it should be. When it comes to defending the freedom of the press, the chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees should, regardless of party, regardless of ideology, be positioned firmly and unequivocally on the side of the First Amendment.
___________

Political cartoonists are still powerful provocateurs of people in power. Victor Navasky explains why.


Next Page  1  |  2

 

Rate It | View Ratings

John Nichols Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

Nichols writes about (more...)
 

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Paul Ryan? Seriously?

Scott Walker's Austerity Agenda Yields 'Worst Job Losses in US'

What the Hell Is Wrong With Paul Ryan?

The Koch Brothers, ALEC and the Savage Assault on Democracy

GM's Plant Closures Confirm the President is a Liar and a Fool

The Deafening Silence of the Republican Field in the Wake of the Planned Parenthood Shooting

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: