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Activists vow treaty will be election issue

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The treaty was due for discussion and a decision by the Senate Foreign Relations committee last week but was sensationally pulled back from a vote at the last minute.
Moments before the 18 members of the committee were due to begin deliberations, committee chairman Senator Richard Lugar spoke to those seated in the hearing room in the Senate Dirksen Building.
“The Committee is aware that particular interest has been expressed about the treaty with the United Kingdom,” Lugar said.
“The Committee will carefully consider this treaty and expects to hold an additional hearing next year to hear from witnesses outside our government.
“Today, we want to establish a record of the administration’s views on the treaty to which the committee and all interested parties can refer as we continue our deliberations,” the Indiana Republican added.
And the committee proceeded to do that as it listened to testimony from lawyers representing the departments of State and Justice.
But there was no vote at the end of the statements.
“We did not know what was going to happen until Lugar spoke,” Francis Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois and a leading opponent of the revised treaty, told the Irish Echo.
Boyle had prepared a written statement in opposition to the treaty which, he said, was entered into the record at the hearing. He was also ready to speak in opposition to the measure.
Boyle, however, was delighted that he didn’t have to immediately testify.
“This was a great victory as this treaty is not now going to be railroaded. Opponents will now have the opportunity to speak,” he said.
Boyle said that “technically” the revised treaty did not require a committee hearing before going to the full Senate for an up or down vote.
“Our concern was that they would have done this so we’re considerably relieved that there is now an orderly process,” Boyle, a former board member of Amnesty International, said.
Boyle said that just after Lugar made his statement, one of the committee members, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, also came out and said much the same thing.
“He was wearing a bright green tie so we took that as a clear indication as to where he stood,” said Boyle.
The hearing proceeded with Sen. Lugar directing questions at the government’s lawyers.
Boyle described the answers from the attorneys as “completely dissembling” and said that based upon their responses there would be revisions made to the objections lodged with the committee by groups such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The answers from the lawyers did not allay any of our fears but at least we now have them on record. We held a strategy session afterwards on how to kill this thing,” Boyle said.
“Killing” the treaty will include making the revised treaty an election issue in the run up to the 2006 congressional mid-term election when 33 Senate seats will be voted upon, Boyle indicated.
Several members of the foreign relations panel, including its chairman, will be running for reelection next November.
“We are going to hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire and warn Republicans that they will be toast if this treaty goes through,” Boyle said.
Being able to make the revised treaty an issue in all 33 races will be a tall order, even with the combined efforts of the leading Irish American organizations.
However, AOH National President Ned McGinley is not alone in pointing to a 1991 U.S. Senate vote in Pennsylvania when former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. attorney General, Richard Thornburgh, lost to unfancied Democrat Harris Wofford.
The Hibernians actively campaigned against Thornburgh over his prosecution of the Joe Doherty deportation case.
To this day Hibernians who took part in that campaign, including Ned McGinley, assert that their efforts were a key factor in sending Thornburgh into an earlier than planned political retirement.
“We will be meeting in December to formulate an attack on this treaty,” McGinley told the Irish Echo this week.
“We want to make this an American issue because the new treaty makes it very difficult for you to defend yourself. It’s a danger to all Americans, not just Irish Americans so it will be an election issue,” McGinley said.
The objections lodged by Prof. Boyle specifically highlight the new treaty’s elimination of the traditional political offense exception.
In addition, he argues that the treaty wipes out a number of constitutional and procedural safeguards including any statute of limitation, the need for any showing of probable cause and makes it irrelevant if the person targeted for extradition has actually acted within the bounds of U.S. law.
“Most outrageously,” wrote Boyle, responsibility for prosecution would be transferred from the courts to the executive branch of government.
“The United States Senate must refuse to give its advice and consent to the proposed treaty for any reason. There is no way this proposed treaty can be salvaged by attaching any package of amendments, reservations, declarations, and understandings. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must reject this treaty outright,” Boyle’s written testimony concluded.
“This treaty is a British dagger pointed at the heart of Irish America,” he stated.
“You can’t get a U.S. citizen by deportation, only extradition so this new treaty is designed to get to Irish American citizens and silence us after the fact,” Boyle told the Irish Echo.
He said that while the decision by the committee to hold a hearing next year was a good one, it was only a beginning.
“We have a lot of work to do, legally and politically,” Boyle said.

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