[JURIST] Senator Patrick Leahy [official website] (D-VT) Wednesday laid out an ambitious agenda for the reshuffled Senate Judiciary Committee he will chair when the Democratic-controlled US Congress begins its new session in January. Speaking [prepared remarks] at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, Leahy, who will take over from current Republican chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), promised what he called "an agenda of restoration, repair and renewal: Restoration of constitutional values and the rights of ordinary Americans. Repair of a broken oversight process and the return of accountability. And renewal of the publics right to know."
The veteran senator from Vermont said that oversight of the FBI and the Department of Justice would be among his top priorities in an effort to restore checks and balances to a government dominated by executive "unilaterialism." In the process, he said he wanted to give more effective protection to American's privacy rights in the face of security-driven government data collection and data-mining, to support the independence of the judiciary, and restore fundamental protections for human rights that had been most recently eroded in the Military Commissions Act [JURIST news archive], which he labeled a "sweeping, ill-conceived law" that in its elimination of habeas corpus protections for alien "enemy combatants" had "eliminated basic legal and human rights for 12 million lawful permanent residents who live and work among us, to say nothing of the millions of other legal immigrants and visitors whom we welcome to our shores each year." AP has more.