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Today, Virginia Sloan, President of The Constitution Project, called on commentators to end the rush to judgment that torture was used to obtain intelligence that ultimately led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. "It is disturbing that within hours of President Obama's announcement, advocacy groups and pundits have jumped to their own conclusions about whether torture was used to bring about these events.
Today, Virginia Sloan, President of The Constitution Project, called on commentators to end the rush to judgment that torture was used to obtain intelligence that ultimately led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. "It is disturbing that within hours of President Obama's announcement, advocacy groups and pundits have jumped to their own conclusions about whether torture was used to bring about these events. Aside from torture being illegal in the United States, it is utterly irresponsible to speculate that its use was pivotal in bringing bin Laden to justice," said Ms. Sloan.
Late last year, The Constitution Project launched its bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment, whose mission is to bring to the American people a comprehensive understanding of what is known and what may still be unknown about the past and current treatment of detainees by the U.S. government, as part of the counterterrorism policies of the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations. The 13-member Task Force includes former intelligence and national security officials, as well as former Members of Congress from Republican and Democratic administrations, judges, doctors, and other relevant experts. The Task Force expects to release its findings in mid-late 2012.
The Constitution Project is a politically independent think tank established in 1997 to promote and defend constitutional safeguards. More information about the Constitution Project is available at https://constitutionproject.org/.
Nevada Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer, the lead sponsor of the resolution, said that dark money is "being used to silence the voices our party most needs to hear."
For the second time in less than five months, the Democratic National Committee's resolutions panel refused Thursday to allow a vote on a proposed ban on dark money in the party's primaries, despite substantial support for the change among DNC members and prominent progressive lawmakers.
"They're being used to silence the voices our party most needs to hear," Whitmer added. "The DNC did not pass my dark money resolution, but my voice was heard. Our elections are not for sale."
According to DNC member R.L. Miller, the founder of Climate Hawks Vote, "not a single person" on the Resolutions Committee "dares move to even put it for a vote, just like summer 2022."
During that meeting, which took place in September, the panel also declined to let the proposed dark money ban advance to a vote, as
Common Dreamsreported at the time.
Recounting the September meeting in an
op-ed for The Nation, longtime DNC member James Zogby—who helped craft the dark money proposal—wrote that after Whitmer delivered a "powerful" statement to the resolutions panel in support of the ban, the panel's chair "asked if any member of the committee wanted to put our resolution up for a vote."
"There was dead silence in the room," Zogby wrote, suggesting that members were likely pressured by DNC leadership to stonewall the dark money proposal. "With not one of the two dozen committee members in attendance willing to call for a vote, the resolution died."
The DNC's proceedings are notoriously anti-democratic and untransparent—and they are likely to become even more so under bylaw changes that the body quietly enacted during its September gathering.
As The Intercept's Akela Lacy reported following last year's meeting, "The national committee approved language requiring that it must ratify any bylaw amendments that the convention, a broader body, wants to adopt."
"The amendment removes the authority over DNC decisions from the national convention, which includes thousands of members, and places it instead with the smaller national committee of just under 500," Lacy noted. "According to three people present, several DNC members were frustrated with the change."
"If we don't get the dark money—what I call 'the dirty money'—out of Democratic primaries, it becomes increasingly impossible to elect the challengers, the insurgents, the progressives in those primaries."
The DNC doesn't publicize the membership lists of its standing committees, though 2020 reporting from Sludge identified at least three corporate lobbyists who were serving on the resolutions panel at that time.
As of the September 2022 meeting, Patrice Taylor and Rich Fitzgerald were the
co-chairs of the DNC Resolutions Committee.
The committee's obstruction of the proposed dark money ban comes in the wake of the most expensive U.S. midterm cycle on record. According to OpenSecrets, super PACs spent an astounding $1.35 billion during the 2022 midterm election cycle.
An outgrowth of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, super PACs are legally required to disclose their donors—but many of them are effectively dark money groups because of how difficult it is to trace the sources of their funding.
The torrent of super PAC cash provided the impetus for progressives' push to ban dark money in Democratic primaries, an effort that garnered the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who caucuses with Senate Democrats—and other members of Congress.
Ahead of this week's winter DNC gathering in Philadelphia, Sanders wrote in a letter that "the Democratic Party must not allow oligarchs and their super PACs, often aligned with Republicans, to buy Democratic Party primaries."
"Virtually all Democrats talk about the need for campaign finance reform," Sanders added. "Talk is easy. Now it's time to walk the walk. Let's stand up for democracy."
\u201cVirtually all Democrats talk about the need for campaign finance reform. Talk is easy. Now it\u2019s time to walk the walk. I wrote a letter to the @DNC today on why we must stand up for democracy and end super PAC spending in primaries.\u201d— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders) 1675194781
Larry Cohen, a DNC member and board chair of the progressive group Our Revolution, lamented in an organizing call earlier this week that the DNC is "a shitshow."
"There's no other way to describe it," Cohen said. "If we don't get the dark money—what I call 'the dirty money'—out of Democratic primaries, it becomes increasingly impossible to elect the challengers, the insurgents, the progressives in those primaries."
The House GOP's vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee came hours after Israel launched its latest bombing campaign in the occupied Gaza Strip.
Rep. Ilhan Omar vowed Thursday that the House GOP's vote to remove her from the chamber's foreign affairs panel would not stop her from criticizing Israel's treatment of Palestinians, a pledge that came after the Israeli government carried out its latest bombing campaign in the occupied Gaza Strip.
"My critique of our foreign policy, Israel's policy towards Palestinians, or that of any foreign nation will not change," Omar (D-Minn.) wrote in a Twitter post following passage of a Republican resolution forcing her off the House Foreign Affairs Committee—a seat she has used to speak out against human rights violations and demand accountability for war crimes, including those committed by the U.S. and Israel.
"As a person who suffered the horrors of war and persecution," Omar added, "my advocacy will always be for those that suffer because of the actions of governments."
The House vote was held hours after Israel's far-right government launched a series of airstrikes in the densely populated "open-air prison" of Gaza, bombings that came a week after Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians at a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. When two rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza in the wake of the massacre, Israel bombarded the enclave, reportedly hitting a refugee camp at the center of the strip.
During the floor debate ahead of the GOP resolution's passage, Republican lawmakers made clear that Omar's criticisms of Israeli policy—which are frequently conflated with antisemitism—were a driving force behind the effort to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) specifically cited Omar's past characterization of Israel as an "apartheid" state, calling the description "appalling"—even though mainstream organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have offered the same assessment of Israel's decades-long occupation and brutalization of Palestinians.
"Rep. Ilhan Omar was booted off of the House Foreign Affairs Committee today for one reason only: her firm and unequivocal opposition to Israel's brutal apartheid rule over the Palestinian people," wrote Josh Ruebner, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the former policy director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
"All other pretexts," Ruebner argued, "are just designed to obscure this fact."
"Israel has long attempted to silence findings of apartheid with targeted smear campaigns, and the international community allows itself to be cowed by these tactics."
The House GOP passed its resolution kicking Omar off the powerful committee as rights groups warned that Israel is ramping up its assault on Palestinian rights and livelihoods.
“This circus is happening while the Israeli government is escalating an entirely new phase of state violence against Palestinians," Beth Miller, political director of Jewish Voice for Peace Action, told The Intercept's Akela Lacy, who argued Thursday that congressional Democrats "paved the way" for the GOP's attacks on Omar.
“If you actually look at what the Israeli government is doing right now," Miller said, "the mask is off completely."
Over the weekend, Israel moved to seal—and signaled plans to demolish—the West Bank homes of two Palestinians suspected of deadly attacks against Israelis. Human Rights Watch condemned Israel's response as an act of "collective punishment."
“Deliberate attacks on civilians are reprehensible crimes," Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Thursday. "But just as no grievance can justify the intentional targeting of civilians in Neve Yaakov, such attacks cannot justify Israeli authorities intentionally punishing the families of Palestinian suspects by demolishing their homes and throwing them out on the street."
"The devastating events of the past week have exposed yet again the deadly cost of the system of apartheid," said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty's secretary-general. "The international community's failure to hold Israeli authorities to account for apartheid and other crimes has given them free rein to segregate, control, and oppress Palestinians on a daily basis, and helps perpetuate deadly violence."
"Apartheid is a crime against humanity, and it is frankly chilling to see the perpetrators evade justice year after year," Callamard added. "Israel has long attempted to silence findings of apartheid with targeted smear campaigns, and the international community allows itself to be cowed by these tactics. Until apartheid is dismantled there is no hope of protecting civilian lives, and no hope of justice for grieving families in Palestine and Israel."
"Manchin is making another push to accelerate fossil fuel permitting," said one climate group. "But what we urgently need is to make it easier to permit clean energy projects."
The U.S. climate movement this week vowed to keep fighting against Sen. Joe Manchin's thrice-defeated "dirty deal" after the West Virginia Democrat indicated he intends to work with House Republicans to force through fossil fuel-friendly permitting reforms.
Frontline climate campaigners and progressives in both chambers of Congress worked tirelessly last year to quash Manchin's proposals—while also advocating for updates to permitting policy that would speed up the renewable energy transition.
The GOP took narrow control of the House earlier this year, and the chamber's Natural Resources Committee is now led by Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.). Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, met with him on Wednesday to discuss permitting legislation.
"Permitting reform as proposed in recent legislation would undermine effective tools used to protect air, water, and climate from the most damaging new infrastructure under consideration."
"They're going to work on something," Manchin said of the House, according to E&E News. "I think it's a high priority, which both sides know that we need it. Everyone has come to agreement that you got to have permitting. Let's take the politics out of it, and do what's doable."
After the meeting, Westerman said he saw "common ground between Sen. Manchin and myself."
The same day, the Republican Study Committee, the largest House GOP caucus, convened to discuss priorities for debt ceiling negotiations. According to a leaked portion of a slideshow, one policy endorsed by the committee for those talks is "enact a package of inflation-busting reforms to increase domestic energy capacity and reduce associated regulatory and permitting barriers."
Meanwhile, the Green New Deal Network—a U.S. campaign that includes 15 national organizations–pledged Wednesday that "we'll be here, ready to kill Manchin's dirty deal all over again."
\u201cManchin is making another push to accelerate fossil fuel permitting. But what we urgently need is to make it easier to permit clean energy projects. \n\nhttps://t.co/pewl5Mk6eh\u201d— Climate Solutions (@Climate Solutions) 1675364765
The battle over the dirty deal, as critics call it, began last summer, when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed behind closed doors to push through permitting reforms in exchange for Manchin's support for the Inflation Reduction Act. Despite Manchin and Schumer's efforts to advance various versions of a permitting bill, it was blocked in September and then twice in December.
"Defeated for the third time this year, this zombie bill would have fast-tracked dangerous fossil fuel and mining projects that would undercut the positive impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act," Chelsea Hodgkins, Oxfam America's climate policy adviser, said in mid-December. "Sen. Manchin's proposal would do nothing to address the real barriers to renewable energy development, which include fully resourcing underfunded agencies and investing in community-supported renewable systems."
Manchin and Westerman's meeting came after Politicoreported Tuesday that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who supported including the dirty deal in a December military spending package, "is bullish about the prospects of passing a bill to ease permitting rules now that the House is in GOP hands."
Capito, who will again serve as ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, told Politico that "permitting—it's a very important aspect of energy development and we have a big role in that at EPW. One of the reasons it failed [last year] is because it didn't go through the committee process. I would love to see us try to work through a committee process that can be successful in the end."
\u201cBarrasso, in a separate recent interview with me, struck a different tone than last year, when he criticized the Manchin effort. \u201cWe have a really fertile opportunity here \u2014 a much better opportunity \u2014 to do the kind of permitting we need for all sources of energy,\u201d he said\u201d— Joshua Siegel (@Joshua Siegel) 1675173634
"I'm certainly going to be pressing and we're going to be having meetings with our House colleagues on this very issue," Capito said during a Thursday press briefing. "We'll look and see what the House comes up with and see if it's something I think we can get good compromises on."
"Finding reasonable compromise to permit pipelines and power lines and other things is important to both sides," added Capito—who, like Manchin, wants to see the controversial and long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline completed. "If you want more renewable, you can't do it without transmission. If you want more natural gas, like I do, you can't do it without pipelines."
E&E News reported that House Republicans now plan "to use, as a starting point, legislation introduced in previous sessions of Congress by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), known as the 'Builder Act,' which would achieve the main goals of speeding up permits for energy projects by making changes to the National Environmental Policy Act," or NEPA—which is expected to anger Democrats.
Asked by the outlet whether he would accept changes to NEPA as part of a deal, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee—who, as the panel's chair last year, led Democratic opposition to Manchin's legislation—said, "No."
Amid discussion on Capitol Hill this week, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists asked six experts to weigh in on permitting reform. Associate editor Jessica McKenzie summarized their arguments in a series of tweets:
\u201cThen we have a series of specific recommendations from @sanjay_patnaik and Rayan Sud on how to optimize and modernize the permitting process: https://t.co/eNhB4xoEek\u201d— Jessica McKenzie (@Jessica McKenzie) 1675265445
\u201cDid a renewable energy project fail to get permitted? Don't blame the environmental review or the permitting process, writes Jamie Pleune; blame a lack of agency capacity and time spent waiting for information from permit applicants. https://t.co/2wrOHyQ5uy\u201d— Jessica McKenzie (@Jessica McKenzie) 1675265445
\u201cWhat's fascinating about these commentaries is how not everyone is "on the same side" of the argument but nonetheless certainly themes and points of agreement emerge...https://t.co/9mAO8WXWdr\u201d— Jessica McKenzie (@Jessica McKenzie) 1675265445
"Reform advocates rightly emphasize the need for rapidly constructing wind, solar, geothermal, energy storage, and transmission," wrote Dustin Mulvaney, a professor in the Environmental Studies Department at San José State University and fellow with the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines.
"The problem is that streamlining environmental rules and regulations could have the opposite effect, unless the 'streamlining' is achieved via planning processes that include stakeholder feedback," he stressed. "More important, permitting reform as proposed in recent legislation would undermine effective tools used to protect air, water, and climate from the most damaging new infrastructure under consideration—namely oil, gas, and tar sands pipelines."