There’s a new committee in Congress created by Republicans and modelled after the Church Committee in the 1970s. It’s already digging into alleged abuses by those in the FBI, the Department of Justice, and other federal agencies.
The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
Sen. Frank Church / D-Idaho (Nov. 18, 1975): These hearings have one overriding objective: the development of sufficient information for Congress to legislate appropriate standards for the FBI.
In 1975, Sen. Frank Church, a Democrat, led a new Senate committee tasked with investigating government abuse against Americans.
Sen. Church (Nov. 18, 1975): If fault is to be found, it does not rest in the Bureau alone. It is to be found also in the long line of attorneys general, presidents, and Congresses, who have failed — who have given power, rather, and responsibility, to the FBI — but have failed to give it adequate guidance, direction, and control.
The allegations sound eerily familiar to today. The FBI and CIA were accused of unconstitutional spying on U.S. citizens. The findings inspired new controls, including creation of a secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to add checks on U.S. intel agencies. But in recent years, that court and others have unearthed ongoing abuses by the same intel agencies.
Now, the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government will investigate more current government attacks on American civil liberties. Republican Thomas Massie is on the new committee.
Sharyl: What are some of the things that you're interested, personally, in first examining?
Rep. Thomas Massie / R-Kentucky: It's a target-rich environment. We're looking for acts of commission, not omission, okay. It's weaponization. It's not incompetence. So I would start with what we know, what's already in the public, which is the Twitter files for instance. The fact that we know the FBI paid Twitter. We know the FBI suggested, and Twitter complied with — in fairness to them, they occasionally pushed back — but they did comply in many instances of shutting down the free speech of private citizens at the insistence of the government, who was paying them, if not directly for that activity, at least for another activity. And I think you've got a violation of the First Amendment when you have a collaboration that's that close.
Sharyl: When there is a violation of a Constitutional amendment, who punishes that, or what is the recourse? Particularly if the agency making the alleged error or misconduct is in charge of prosecutions? There's not going to be a prosecution of themselves.
Rep. Massie: You know, I've run into this before on the Oversight Committee.
Massie harkens back to the IRS’s Lois Lerner, who eventually apologized for being part of weaponizing the tax agency against conservative groups ahead of the 2012 presidential election. And Attorney General Eric Holder, who refused to testify to Congress on the Obama administration’s secret operations, such as Fast and Furious, that armed Mexican drug cartels.
Rep. Massie: We called in Lois Lerner, and she took the Fifth.
Lois Lerner (March 5, 2014): My counsel has advised me that I have not waived my constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment, and on his advice, I will decline to answer any question on the subject matter of this hearing.
Rep. Massie: It’s pretty clear that she was upper / mid-level management, and whether she was acting at the direction of somebody or acting on her own, that she was undertaking unconstitutional activity against Americans. And we never were able to convict her or even get to her pension. Then you had Eric Holder, who was in contempt of Congress and refused to answer our questions or to show up. And we referred him to the DOJ. And is the DOJ going to investigate their boss? Well, in that case they didn't. But things have changed a little bit. With the January 6th Committee, they sort of set some precedents that, you know, you can go after private citizens, and if they didn't show up, even if they're no longer working for the government, they were referred criminally, and in some cases pursued.
Sharyl: So let's say you unearth what you see are some persistent problems or politicization or weaponization. What is something practical you could see potentially coming out of this, something realistic?
Massie: Legislation. I think creating causes of action, for instance. You know, it's really hard to sue the federal government. Maybe we need to create some more of those areas so that when this does happen again, people have an ability to go to the courts. At the end of the day, the big thing that these organizations — or maybe I should call them organisms — fear is cutting off their food source, which is money. And that's where — that's ultimately what we can do, even if we can't prosecute the individuals in charge.
Sharyl (on-camera): One other provision the new committee is specifically permitted to investigate: “ongoing investigations,” just like the Democrats’ January 6th committee did. Federal agencies typically give “ongoing investigations” as an excuse not to give information to Congress, which is tasked with doing oversight.
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Donna E Turner says
It is time for all those subverting our Constitution to Marxist aims and perverting America to be PUNISHED. We cannot any longer allow people like Lois Lerner to get away with abusing bureaucratic power. In so doing, we have allowed the mutilation and dismemberment of innocent children. NO MORE MERCY.
Thomas Joseph Hussman says
If you have a problem with violent street crime, you send the police to the area and have them enforce laws concerning walking across the street against a red light, or speeding, etc. If you have a problem with rapists and other serial criminals, you concentrate on auto theft. And so on and so forth. You don't ignore history when you plan an attack on crime, whether the crimes are being committed by politicians or federal agents or street thugs. Ted Bundy used stolen cars frequently, yet no one wants to investigate auto thefts because it isn't sexy and glamorous. Process stolen cars for forensic evidence and crime rates will fall dramatically. Put a few federal agents and some politicians in prison along with the lawyers who lie to defend them, and white collar crime will subside. If you want to fight corruption, go to where the corruption is happening and camp there.