For quite some time, Congress has ceded its constitutional power to legislate to the unelected administrative state — at least when Democrats are both the congressional majority and hold the White House. Now, having ignored its true function, it seeks to expand its mandate to judicial powers. The Select Committee set up by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate the January 6 riot has obviously determined that its mandate does not require a legislative purpose: It will act as a judicial branch, albeit one with no constitutional limits whatsoever.
You won’t see much about this in the corporate media. You have to go to the self-publishing authors like Glenn Greenwald, whose recent substack sets out in shocking detail the overreaching of the January 6 committee.
Citing two McCarthy-era Supreme Court cases, he argues that the power it is claiming belongs to the Judiciary branch, not Congress, and that the committee’s conduct presents a very serious and dangerous civil liberties violation. I am in total agreement with him.
What Congress is barred from doing, as two McCarthy-era Supreme Court cases ruled, is exactly what the 1/6 committee is now doing: conducting a separate, parallel criminal investigation in order to uncover political crimes committed by private citizens. Such powers are dangerous precisely because Congress’s investigative powers are not subject to the same safeguards as the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. And just as was true of the 1950s House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that prompted those Supreme Court rulings, the 1/6 committee is not confining its invasive investigative activities to executive branch officials or even citizens who engaged in violence or other illegality on January 6, but instead is investigating anyone and everyone who exercised their Constitutional rights to express views about and organize protests over their belief that the 2020 presidential election contained fraud. Indeed, the committee’s initial targets appear to be taken from the list of those who applied for protest permits in Washington: a perfectly legal, indeed constitutionally protected, act.
This abuse of power is not merely abstract. The Congressional 1/6 Committee has been secretly obtaining private information about American citizens en masse: telephone records, email logs, internet and browsing history, and banking transactions. And it has done so without any limitations or safeguards: no judicial oversight, no need for warrants, no legal limitations of any kind.
Indeed, the committee has been purposely attempting to prevent citizens who are the targets of their investigative orders to have any opportunity to contest the legality of this behavior in court.
How chilling this is! The committee’s targets initially are those who lawfully applied for and obtained protest permits, and since then it has been in secret getting “en masse” citizens’ email logs, internet and browsing histories, and banking transactions by sending hundreds of subpoenas to telecom companies and demanding — with no legal basis — these records. To preclude court challenge to these subpoenas they asked these companies not to disclose the existence of the subpoenas to their customers. Now, they’ve upped the outrage by subpoenaing bank records of private citizens. Since the banks are directed not to notify customers of the subpoenas, they are unable to seek judicial review. This is unlike the FBI’s limits — that agency rarely can impose a gag order on a financial institution unless it has first persuaded a court that such a safeguard is necessary. With such a safeguard in place, in almost all cases citizens can seek judicial relief enjoining the seizure of their records. Without it, the committee is free to snoop into the personal records of anyone it chooses to under cover of secrecy.