Exclusive: House Judiciary Committee will probe Bush torture, Patriot Act statements
Thursday February 1, 2007
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) will be investigating all of President Bush’s so-called signing statements to determine how drastically the president has misinterpreted laws passed by Congress.
Specifically, Judiciary aides tell RAW STORY that the Chairman's top priorities are a statement in which Bush said he didn't need to comply with a congressional ban on torture and Patriot Act statements which say the President doesn't need to turn over reports of surveillance to Congress.
“The reason why we’re doing this, you don’t really know what the Administration is doing with these signing statements,” said a Judiciary Committee aide. “What they say in the signing statements is that they have the intent to interpret things differently than Congress passed.”
Conyers now wants to know “to what extent the signing statements are an indication that the Bush Administration is circumventing Congress.”
When asked if any particular signing statements had been particularly noteworthy to Conyers, the aide said, “If you want to look at the statements that affected [Conyers], it’s the Patriot Act and the torture bill.”
However, the aide insisted that the probe will be comprehensive.
President Bush has taken strong criticism for his use of signing statements, which are not mentioned in the Constitution and which many legal experts believe are illegal when used the way Bush has. The courts have generally ruled that signing statements can be used to clarify legislation or direct federal agencies in their application of the laws, but not to overturn or change the meaning of acts of Congress.
Conyers' probe seeks to explore that issue.
The congressman is particularly interested in the specific matters of the Patriot Act and torture. According to the Boston Globe, the president's signing statements allow him to "waive the torture ban if he decides that harsh interrogation techniques will assist in preventing terrorist attacks," and, with regard to the Patriot Act, to "order Justice Department officials to withhold any information from Congress if he decides it could impair national security or executive branch operations."
According to Roll Call, “Conyers asserted the investigation would be aggressive.” But “he declined to discuss in a separate interview whether the panel could issue subpoenas should the White House or the Justice Department prove uncooperative.”
“We are a coequal branch of government, and if our system of checks and balances is going to operate, it is imperative that we understand how the executive branch is enforcing — or ignoring — the bills that are signed into law,” the Detroit Democrat said.