merica’s rising civil liberties movement lost one of its strongest advocates in the US Congress on Tuesday night, as Colorado’s Mark Udall lost his Senate seat to Republican Cory Gardner. While the election was not a referendum on Udall’s support for civil liberties (Gardner expressed support for surveillance reform, and Udall spent most of his campaign almost solely concentrating on reproductive issues), the loss is undoubtedly a blow for privacy and transparency advocates, as Udall was one of the NSA and CIA’s most outspoken and consistent critics. Most importantly, he sat on the intelligence committee, the Senate’s sole oversight board of the clandestine agencies, where he was one of just a few dissenting members.
But Udall’s loss doesn’t have to be all bad. The lame-duck transparency advocate now has a rare opportunity to truly show his principles in the final two months of his Senate career and finally expose, in great detail, the secret government wrongdoing he’s been criticizing for years. On his way out the door, Udall can use congressional immunity provided to him by the Constitution’s Speech and Debate clause to read the Senate’s still-classified 6,000-page CIA torture report into the Congressional record – on the floor, on TV, for the world to see.
There’s ample precedent for this. In 1971, former Senator Mike Gravel famously read the top-secret classified Pentagon Papers for three hours before almost collapsing and then entering thousands of pages more into the record after he couldn’t speak for any longer from exhaustion.
In fact, Udall and his nearly lone partner in transparency, Senator Ron Wyden, have received criticism for not using this floor privilege before, including very recently when director Laura Poitras, on tour for her new documentary about Edward Snowden, said Wyden and others “failed the public” by not coming out and openly saying in 2011 that the NSA had secretly re-interpreted the Patriot Act to collect every American’s phone records. In many ways, Snowden let them off the hook.
Read the full article at the Guardian.