Leahy promises 'real' oversight of FBI, Justice

Gonzales Testifies On Justice Department Oversight
Incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says he'll be tough on the Bush administration on war no terror strategy.Win McNamee / Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Bush administration should expect tougher oversight of its war-on-terrorism strategy and perhaps some all-expense-paid tickets to Iraq to help train the corrupt police force there, the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday.

Sen. Patrick Leahy's agenda includes a look at about a dozen recommendations by the Iraq Study Group to send law enforcement officials from the FBI and other offices in the Justice Department to the wartorn nation to boost a police force riddled with corruption. Leahy noted that over the weekend that Iraqi police allegedly helped Saddam Hussein's nephew, Ayman Sabawi, escape from a prison near Mosul.

"The police force has proven to be one of the worst failures of the occupation," Leahy, D-Vt., said Wednesday. "I look forward to the Judiciary Committee contributing to these efforts by exploring the dozen recommendations relating to the Iraqi justice system and the training of Iraqi police forces."

Leahy revealed that Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., will chair a new subcommittee on human rights. The new panel's agenda will include overseeing legislation on torture and detainee treatment.

Challenging presidential signing statements
Leahy also talked tough about President Bush's habit of issuing so-called signing statements, in which the president has laid out which parts of laws he has just signed that he will follow and which he won't. Like his predecessor, outgoing committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Leahy pointed out that Congress can dissuade Bush from issuing more such statements by threatening to withhold funding or blocking his nominations. However, Leahy declined to issue an outright threat.

In his speech at Georgetown University, Leahy did say that reclaiming the chairmanship after a brief possession of the gavel in 2001-02 would be a period of "restoration, repair and renewal" after what he termed years of the Bush administration's virtually unchecked power to hunt for terrorists even within U.S. borders.

"This administration has been less and less willing to let us know what they are doing," Leahy said in prepared remarks obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program and the government's secretive terrorism risk assessments of Americans traveling abroad merit a closer look by his panel, Leahy said.

"Americans' privacy is a price the Bush administration is willing to pay for the cavalier way it is spawning new databanks," he said in the prepared text. "We are way overdue in catching up to the erosion of privacy, and the Judiciary Committee now will help to bring this picture into focus."

Also on the agenda, Leahy said, is a bill he has introduced to crack down on war profiteering in Iraq. The measure would prohibit profiteering and fraud by contractors in connection with a war, relief or reconstruction efforts and set stiff punishments of prison time and fines.