Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is the Washington, DC correspondent for The Media Consortium, a network of progressive media organizations, including The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Identification Politics

The congressionally mandated national ID system moved with little discussion from big idea to law. As the devilish details emerge, it's proving easier mandated than done--and leaving immigrants to face the consequences.

At a moment in congressional history when passing even the narrowest of legislation seems all but impossible, the REAL ID Act is a reminder that, even now, the country's leaders can sneak far-reaching schemes into law like contraband onto an airplane. Last week, on Friday, Jan. 11, the Department of Homeland Security released its complete explanation of how federal agencies will implement the national identification law Congress passed in 2005. The much-awaited regulations do little to mitigate either REAL ID’s logistical problems or its civil liberties concerns. Nor do they offer states significant relief in meeting the feds’ looming deadlines on turning their big idea into a day-to-day reality for Americans. As a result, REAL ID remains a hugely complicated, top-down undertaking that, to civil libertarians, brings America ever closer to a check-point society and, to immigrant-rights advocates, shoves millions of migrants further into the margins. Moreover, it has set up a high-...

What's Next for FISA?

Where we've been, and where we're going, in the long, sordid saga of keeping Americans safe from the administration's spying.

The first year of the 110th Congress closed with a great deal of spilled blood, and few victories for liberals. In just the last weeks of the past session, Democrats fought a series of gladiator battles over issues like energy, the Iraq war, and government spending—and lost every one of them in the Senate. But on the one issue that Democrats had by-and-large decided to cede to their opponents, they were ... still unable to get very far. That issue was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And the Democrats' failure was actually great news to civil libertarians, who widely agree that the bill that nearly passed the Senate last month would have sold out Americans' constitutional rights for illusory security gains and the protection of telecommunications firms that knowingly broke the law. Now, as Congress prepares to reconvene, it's anybody's guess what the next chapter in FISA's troubled saga will be. In a valiant, Internet-born effort at year's end, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.,...

The Year in Oversight

The good, the bad and the ugly of the Democratic Congress' year of trying to gavel the Bush administration into order.

As the year draws to a close, it will be tempting for pundits -- liberal and otherwise -- to despair at the Democrats' inability to wield their new congressional leadership to affect real and swift change in the country. After all, the war in Iraq not only continues, but 2007 was its deadliest year. FISA presents a greater danger to American civil liberties today than it did when the Democrats took their gavels in January. And the radiant vision of Karl Rove being escorted down Pennsylvania Avenue to jail never came to pass. But there have been successes, too. Many have emerged as part of an aggressive oversight effort, which has dragged a number of scandals out of the shadows and into the cleansing daylight. Democrats in both the House and Senate have led the way in rooting out corrupt leadership at the Department of Justice, in revealing just how shadowy the president's domestic spying program was (and how unpopular it was among members of the federal law enforcement community), and...

No Talking to the Enemy

Citizens and legislators have tried to build pressure valves for U.S.-Iranian hostility. But both governments have gagged conversationalists with diplomatic red tape.

About five years ago, a young Iranian man became involved with the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., where he joined a program through which college students and recent graduates learn practical skills in conflict resolution. At the end of his stay, he returned to Iran, where he became a member of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, via e-mail, kept in touch with his religious friends in the United States. In August 2006, the man (his U.S. contacts wouldn't name him) called the Mennonites to tell them that the recently elected Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would be coming to New York to speak before the United Nations General Assembly. He brokered a meeting in a ballroom at Ahmadinejad's Manhattan hotel. David Culp, legislative representative at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, was among the approximately 40 Americans who asked the Iranian president, among other things, about his country's...

The End of Impunity?

The Senate Judiciary Committee is trying to revive a once-lively effort to hold the White House accountable for obstructing congressional oversight. Also: the explosive failure of a telecom immunity compromise.

The Senate Judiciary Committee moved to revive a fading congressional zeal for holding the Bush administration accountable to Congress on Thursday by passing contempt resolutions against two of four White House officials who have refused to fully comply with committee subpoenas. The resolutions passed 12 to 7, with Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting with the Democrats. Specter’s vote came reluctantly, issued only after his attempts to mollify the White House reached an impasse. Specter told the committee that he had accepted the White House's position that presidential aides should be allowed to testify in private, not under oath, and without a transcript. But he drew the line at a White House demand that inquiries into the U.S. Attorney scandal come to an end. "We cannot abrogate or relinquish our constitutional responsibilities," the Republican insisted. White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff...

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