Maybe Rep. Himes should take a page out of John Oliver’s book. In the most recent episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host Oliver acknowledges that nobody had actually read the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, the public version of which is more than 500 pages long.
So he recruited Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren to record an audiobook version of the report.
It certainly does take the edge off. Mirren’s mellifluous voice makes it easier to digest heavy-handed statements such as: “The CIA placed individuals with no applicable experience or training in senior detention and interrogation roles.”
U.S. Rep. James Himes, D-4th District, may want to give Mirren’s agent a call. When the U.S. House of Representatives this week considers H.R. 2596, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, Himes intends to offer an amendment some of his colleagues might not want to hear.
Himes’ amendment would give the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) access to information on covert operations, possibly related to the so-called war on terror.
“PCLOB exists to make sure that the government always respects the civil liberties of Americans,” Himes said. “However, the bill as it’s now written says that PCLOB can’t review any covert actions for civil liberty violations. I think that’s when oversight is needed most.”
It’s not the first time Himes has stumped for the PCLOB. Back in April, he introduced H.R. 2108, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Enhancement Act, which was intended to have reports provided to members of Congress under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 delivered as well to the PCLOB.
That bill was sent to committee but has not yet been brought to the House for consideration.
Members of the PCLOB are appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress. The board was created in 2007 and tasked with reviewing and analyzing “actions the executive branch takes to protect the nation from terrorism,” and weighing those actions against “the need to protect privacy and civil liberties,” according to the board’s website.
Himes particularly cites the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim and militant, known for his role as a recruiter for al-Qaeda. U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman writes in his book, Ticking Time Bomb: Counter-Terrorism Lessons from the U.S. Government’s Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack, that al-Awlaki, among others, was responsible for providing religious justifications for terrorism.
Al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico, was reportedly the first American citizen to be killed by an American drone strike.
“When the decision is made to take the life of an American citizen in the name of our national security, we should have multiple layers of scrutiny,” Himes said in a release. “The PCLOB is entitled to view classified information and has always handled it carefully. It seems like it would be a natural fit for it to provide further review and oversight in these circumstances.”
The amendment is co-sponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Rep. David Schweikert, R-Arizona.