A Day After Reading Constitution, Republicans Abolish Civil Liberties, Civil Liberties Bits of It

I sort of expected the Republicans to abolish labor–or at least its named inclusion among the business of Congressional committees. After all, the GOP really doesn’t like tough things like physical work or the people who do it.

But it wasn’t so long ago that the Republican Party–not to mention its newest activist branch, the Tea Party–claimed to give a damn about civil liberties. Hell, Louie Gohmert, who reassured me yesterday the Fourth Amendment is still on the books, is even a member of the Judiciary Committee.

But like labor, the Republicans have also apparently done away with civil liberties and civil rights.

From a Jerry Nadler press release:

Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who has served as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties since 2007, responded to news that the Republican-led Judiciary Committee will change the name of the Subcommittee to the “Constitution Subcommittee.”  He issued the following statement:

Once again, the new Republican majority has shown that it isn’t quite as committed to the Constitution as its recent lofty rhetoric would indicate.  Today, it has yet again shown its contempt for key portions of the document – the areas of civil rights and civil liberties – by banishing those words from the title of the Constitution Subcommittee.  In 1995, when Newt Gingrich became Speaker, one of the Republicans’ first acts was to change the name of that Subcommittee.  For anyone who thought the change was merely for rhetorical purposes, our experience over 12 years of Republican rule showed just how hostile they are to individual rights and liberties.  With this move, we can only assume that they are intent on more of the same.  It is going to be a long and difficult struggle to protect these cherished rights and liberties from assaults by the Republican majority.

Republicans have made a great deal of noise in recent days about standing up for the Constitution.  But, in less than 48 hours, they have already revealed their true intentions.  In addition to reading selectively from the Constitution on the House floor in a much-exalted ceremony on Thursday, Republicans also blatantly violated the Constitution by allowing two of their Members to vote without having been sworn-in, and introduced unconstitutional legislation aimed at bypassing the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause.  And, with the Subcommittee name change, they are again telling Americans that only some parts of the Constitution matter.  Fundamental rights and liberties appear to have been dropped from the Constitution by far-right ideologues.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. kbskiff says:


    As if the democrats are concerned about civil liberties or civil rights.

    Nadler should just hang his head in shame because they are just as bad if not worse!

  2. anwaya says:

    I think the title should read “A Day After Reading Constitution, Republicans Abolish Civil Rights, Civil Liberties Bits of It”

  3. WilliamOckham says:

    Why on earth were you talking to Louie Gohmert? That can be dangerous, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure.

  4. Mary says:

    Just thought I’d add in that in line with the Republican contempt for civil liberties, Obamaco has been busily shipping a GITMO detainee, Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, to Algeria to disappear him before their answer to his petition for certiorari in the Sup Ct is due.


    His case, btw, was the one in which Judge Kessler used the torture of Binyam Mohamed, one of the “witnesses” used by Gov to support their kidnap to GITMO and continued detenetion, in her opinion.

    Now, Gov doesn’t have to worry about briefing in a case where the judge dealt directly with Executive branch torture. booyah for them.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Exactly. I’d be more sympathetic to Nadler’s protest, if it wasn’t that Congress was complicit with the Pentagon and White House in the secret deportation of Mr. Mohammed.

      I did write this up earlier today at MyFDL:
      Obama “Stealth Transfer” of Gitmo Prisoner, Algerian Forcibly Repatriated.

      Well, Congressman Nadler, you talk a good game against your abject GOP colleagues, but how about the Congressional Democratic Party chairpersons of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, not to mention your president, openly flouting major human rights treaties and obligations? I’m waiting for your letter on this Congressman Nadler.

  5. MadDog says:

    EW, regarding your tweets of:

    A note about the Wikileaks subpoena. They’re investigating Assange as a Spy. Which means they could have–but didn’t–use PATRIOT secercy…


    At least as far as we know!!!

    I’m guessing that in fact they DID go to FISC to get a Patriot Act Wikileaks subpoena or they that scooped up the very same info via their existing driftnet surveillance.

    And then that the news on a Wikileaks subpoena is talking about a “clean” version that can be used in court without the States Secret Privilege and/or illegal baggage of the “dirty” version(s).

    The point I’m making is the US government knew exactly what they were going after with the “clean” Wikileaks subpoena.

    • MadDog says:

      I find this statement from the Twitter subpoena unsealing order (thanks Glenn!) quite “interesting”:

      …it appearing that it is in the best interest of the investigation to unseal the Court’s Order of December 14, 2010 and authorize Twitter to disclose that Order to its subscribers and customers…

      Did “someone”, likely Twitter’s attorneys (but not necessarily), convince the judge that a sealed Twitter subpoena was less than judicial? Less than fair? Less than by-the-book? Less than in the interests of justice?

      Or perhaps did the judge herself have second thoughts and decide the US government was over the line in judgement, lacking in its evidence, and/or on a unsupportable witch-hunt?

      Twould be nice to know!

      • MadDog says:

        More news via the Guardian:

        WikiLeaks demands Google and Facebook unseal US subpoenas

        WikiLeaks has demanded that Google and Facebook unseal any US court subpoenas they have received after it emerged that a court in Virginia had ordered Twitter secretly to hand over details of accounts and use of the micro-blogging site by five figures associated with the group, including Julian Assange…


        …The subpoena itself is an unusual one known as a 2703(d) which a recent Federal appeals court ruled was insufficient to order the disclosure of the contents of communication. Significantly, however, that ruling is binding in neither Virginia – where it was issued – or in San Francisco where Twitter is based…

        • MadDog says:

          Since the now “public” subpoena (again, thanks Glenn!) does not deal with the “contents” of the stored communications, does anyone want to bet that the US government doesn’t already have/know them?

          Perhaps under a still secret Patriot Act FISA warrant from the FISC? Perhaps under an unwarranted and illegal driftnet?

          The Guardian’s article makes a major point that shouldn’t be ignored.

          Namely, that 2703(d) doesn’t allow for the acquisition of the “contents” of stored communications. For that, the US government has to go elsewhere.

          And I’ve got to believe that the “contents” are vastly more important than what the now public Twitter subpoena could possibly reveal.

  6. donbacon says:

    The US Constitution is a key document which describes how the US government is constituted. But that’s all it is. There’s no reason anyone should be ” committed to the Constitution” or that there should be a “Constitution Subcommittee.”

    Do we need a Roberts Rules Of Order Committee for New England town meetings? No. Just follow the recipe and season to taste.

    There’s no deeply inherent connection between the Constitution and civil rights. The Constitution proscribes the government from legislating against some rights, is all.

    Our civil rights are inherent. If we depend upon the government to provide us our rights we are missing the intent of the Declaration of Independence and mortgaging our lives to the government, and you know how mortgages worked out.

  7. JohnLopresti says:

    Karlan and Nadler both participated in the American Constitution Society convention six months ago; a summary of their comments at one panel is there. A report enumerating the superseded parts of the constitution as Republican-read is there; e.g. no mention of the 3/5 rule whereby, for example, fifteen slaves were counted for census purposes as nine people. Balkin eulogizing the document this past week is there. Nadler*s subcommittee title complaint is pretty accurate; Republicanspeak dislikes what the civil rights act, and voting rights act, engendered; it impacts the Republican efforts at consolidating new constituencies from the reactionary margins of polity.

    • donbacon says:


      So the Constitution’s broad sweeping powers are given their real-life meaning by Congress. If you ask where did we get equality, it’s from the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

      That’s a sister idea (substituting Congress for the Constitution, but still the government) of what I was writing about, the false idea that “we get equality. . . from the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

      Oh thank you, thank you, kind politicians, for giving us equality. And you’re also telling me I can live with whomever I choose? Oh thank you again. And that a woman can control her own body? Ooops — sorry, I didn’t mean to push it.

  8. bobschacht says:

    Has an arrest warrant been issued for Sharron Angle yet? She was the one advocating “Second Amendment Remedies”, and it looks like someone took her up on it and shot Tucson Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head today. At least Speaker Bonehead has already released a statement condemning the attack.

    Bob in AZ