Roberts: ‘No civil liberties if you’re dead’

Sen. Pat Roberts on Thursday opened up confirmation hearings for CIA director nominee Gen. Michael Hayden, and, in doing so, made remarks that immediately raced through the blogosphere.The Gulf Times reports: “Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, gave a strong defence of the administration’s programme to eavesdrop on international telephone calls of suspected terrorists without court approval. He said this and other programmes needed to remain secret to be effective.”‘I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties. But you have no civil liberties if you are dead,’ Roberts said.”That comment got notice from conservative and liberal blogs. You can sample some of the reaction here.As expected, the NSA’s so-called “warrantless wiretapping” program took center stage at the hearings – Hayden ran the NSA when the program got under way.The Washington Post carries transcripts of Roberts’ opening remarks, in which he once again decried the leaks that have made NSA programs public, and which gives the fuller context of his “when you are dead” comments:”ROBERTS: The fact we have not had another tragedy like 9/11 is no accident.But today in Congress and throughout Washington, leaks and misinformation are endangering our efforts. Bin Laden, Zarqawi and their followers must be rejoicing.”We cannot get to the point where we are unilaterally disarming ourselves in the war against terror. If we do, it will be game, set, match Al Qaida.”Remember Khobar Towers, Beirut, the USS Cole, embassy attacks, the two attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 9/11, and attacks worldwide and more to come, if our efforts are compromised.”I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties. But you have no civil liberties if you are dead.”The New York Times reports: “Mr. Roberts, who arranged for those briefings, grew testy at one point Thursday, after a Democrat who had not been included, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, complained bitterly about it.”‘General,’ Mr. Wyden said, ‘if we had not read about the warrantless wiretapping program in The New York Times last December, would 14 of the 16 members of this Senate Intelligence Committee ever have heard about this program in a way consistent with national security?'”‘Senator,’ the general replied, ‘I simply have no way of answering that question. I don’t know.'”Moments later, Mr. Roberts jumped in to say he had been briefed on ’13 occasions, along with the vice president and the leadership of the Congress.'”‘You might think we’re not independent,’ Mr. Roberts said. ‘I am independent. And I asked very tough questions.'”Elsewhere, The Times adds: “None of the 15 senators on the committee indicated that they planned to vote against General Hayden’s nomination. By day’s end, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Republican chairman of the committee, said he hoped to hold votes in the committee and the full Senate next week that could install General Hayden at the C.I.A. by Memorial Day.”Other links today:Sam Brownback links(LA Times) Senate OKs Higher Fines for Indecency on Television: The Senate late Thursday unanimously approved a tenfold increase in broadcast indecency fines – boosting the maximum penalty to $325,000 per violation. The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), passed with little notice in a nearly empty chamber after an unusual parliamentary maneuver by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) that assured approval unless any senator objected. “It’s time that broadcast indecency fines represent a real economic penalty and not just a slap on the wrist,” Brownback said. “Radio and television waves are public property, and the companies who profit from using the public airwaves should face meaningful fines for broadcasting indecent material.”Jerry Moran links(Courier & Press) Foreign doctor project backed: Two weeks before a program that allows foreign doctors to work in underserved areas was set to expire, Rep. John Hostettler held a hearing about its merits. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said it seems like he’s always appearing in front of the subcommittee on immigration at the last minute, asking for another extension. This one lasted two years. He said, “I believe that health care is the No. 1 domestic issue we face today,” both access and affordability. He asked the committee to make this program permanent.Misc. links( Brownback, Moran push for E-85 fuel at the pump: The House and Senate are considering two new pieces of legislation that would promote new technologies and increase the availability of alternative fuels like ethanol and bio-diesel. “Our consumers in Kansas and across the country are paying extra high prices for fuel at the pump, and we need ethanol to compete with oil companies and their pricing structure that forces companies to keep their prices lower,” said Congressman Jerry Moran (R-1st District). “We’ve got to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and the key here is stretching each gallon of petroleum further,” said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas).(Washington Post/Wichita Eagle) Senate votes English ‘national language’ for federal services, communications: he Senate voted Thursday to make English the “national language” of the United States, declaring that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except for those already guaranteed by law. The measure, approved by a vote of 63 to 34, directs the government to “preserve and enhance” the role of English, without altering current laws that require some government documents and services be provided in other languages. Opponents, however, said it could negate executive orders, regulations, civil service guidances and other multilingual ordinances not sanctioned by acts of Congress. Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback voted for the amendment.How to contact As always, you can find information to contact members of the Kansas congressional delegation here.