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tv   Constitutional Champion Awards Ceremony for Senators Patrick Leahy D-VT...  CSPAN  August 19, 2015 6:06pm-7:14pm EDT

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record contains no persuasive evidence that torture produced significant information of value. as with all of our reports, we use this one to further or education and advocacy work. task force members supported by tcp staff use their expertise, influence and access to persistently lobby congress and the administration to make public the senate intelligent committee's report on the cia's detention and interrogation program. finally last december a declassified executive summary was publicly released. its findings and recommendations closely mirror many of those of our own task force. unfortunately the executive branch seems to be largely ignoring the senate report and some in congress want it withdrawn from public view. incredibly representatives of most of the affected executive
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branch agencies including the fbi admit they haven't even bothered to open their copy. it's long past time to declassify all information about post-9/11 detainee abuses. tcp's polling shows that americans oppose these abuses. we must understand what went wrong so that it will never happen again. and so our work in this area will continue. [ applause ] thank you. task force members and tcp staff has successfully supported critical steps towards closing guantanamo. while both the bush and obama administrations made some progress, including a welcome uptick in transfers at the end of last year, detainee transfers have slowed again and some in congress seem set on harsher restrictions to ensure that gitmo remains open. it is an outrage 122 detainees remain untried at guantanamo,
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nearly half of them declared for transfer. our death penalty work is another work our consensus building. we've brought together supporters of capital punishment to ensure that our county addresses the inaccuracy and injustices that plague the system. last may we issued a comprehensive report and 39 recommendations condemning the system's flaws from arrest to execution. anthony graves stated that had our recommendations been in place when we was convicted, he would not have spent 18 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. in too many capital cases exculpatory evidence is withheld, defense lawyers are ill equipped and outmatched, deadlines are inexcusably missed, racial disparities persist and people with
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intellectual disabilities face the ultimate punishment. in recommending a national commitment to improving forensic science, the report foreshadowed the fbi's acknowledgment that c) strict limits on government snooping and they're demanding that law enforcement obtain warrants to access this information.
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we're pleased to work not only with the privacy community and the government but also with technology companies who are often caught in the middle of the battles. this past year we helped build broad support in collection of our telephone records and for making the foreign surveillance intelligent court for accountable. we appreciate senator leahy and his staff for their tireless efforts to ensure that congress adopts these reforms. it is our mission to assume the unlikeliness of allies to promote consensus. we're looking at, for example, the consequences of collecting dna from people who have not been charged with a crime. we testified before the president's 21st century task force on policing about constituzjááár'ciples that policymakers must consider before equipping state and local police with body cameras and military equipment.
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we just issued a report condemning one of the most common and overlooked constitutional deprivations experienced by poor people accused of crimes. the denial of counsel when a judge determines whether the accused will be incarcerated prior to trial. because of our unusual mission, advocates in state campaigns constantly seek our help, as they did last december when we assembled over a dozen nationally recognized community leaders to plead for clemency. for scott panetti because of his severe mental illness. his execution fortunately has now been stayed. litigants, including many here tonight, ask us to organize amicus briefs in important supreme court cases, briefs that are unusually niinfluential because they're from former
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judges and prosecutors, national security experts and other prominent and often unlikely voices. you probably just read about one of those cases, anthony ray hinton what was exonerated in early april after spending nearly three decades on alabama's death row because his court appointed lawyer didn't know enough to ask the court for enough money to hire a qualified expert. before turning to our awards, i want to thank jones day for once again lending us this amazing space. and i want to thank our many sponsors for this evening and especially those at the defender level, bloomberg, kirkland and ellis and twitter. i want to thank our board of directors for their expertise and support and the tireless tcp staff. and i want to particularly thank the creative lisa banks jenning donnelly and brian for their work on this gala. thanks to all of you who are here and support our mission. and finally thank you to our
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constitutional champions who stand up for the constitution and for the rights of us all. for more about our first honoree, senator patrick leahy, please welcome debbo patrick adegbile, his biography and those of the other speakers are in the program. so let me just welcome debo to the stage. [ applause ] ordinarily i would ask for that step to come back here. but tonight since we're amongst friends i'll dispatch with that. good evening. it's a great pleasure to be here with you and to be here celebrating the constitution projects important work. but it's a special pleasure to be here to present an award to my mentor, friend and former employer, senator patrick leahy.
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senator leahy, by every measure, is a constitutional champion, and tonight i will speak just briefly about some of the reasons why we know that to be the case. as a senator, a former chairman of the judiciary committee, as a ranking member, senator leahy always equips himself as a man of principle and commitment and somebody who believes in the rule of law and the constitutional rules that we set for ourselves. most recently, together with another one of our honorees this evening, senator rand paul, senator leahy is a cosponsor of measure which is intended to restore a measure of fairness and discretion to judges as they seek to sentence people in the context of mandatory minimums. in a post-9/11 world senator leahy had lent his voice to the
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rule of law and the tensions that we face with respect to our constitution and the need to keep our nation safe. senator leahy has been in all of and his staff and i know it would not have been signed but for his efforts.
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in another context collaborating the senator orrin hatch, he's made sure there's access for post-conviction people who are sentenced to capital crimes to have dna testing done to bring a greater measure of fairness where people face the most severe penalty that our criminal justice system mets out. senator leahy it is a happy evening for me to be here and top raise tribute to you. i think when this award was named, it must have been named with men like you in mind. i thank you for your leadership, for your commitment, for your example, for your friendship, for the opportunity to stand with you in good times and more harrowing times. i welcome senator patrick leahy to the podium to accept the constitutional champion award. [ applause ]
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>> thank you. here we go. don't want to make a mistake. debo, thank you very much for that introduction. you know, i was thinking, as i listened to jenny giving you her opening on this, we're dealing with people here who have actually read the constitution. what a wonderful, wonderful feeling that is to do that.
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and debo, you're a hero in our family. you're a hero to so many of us here. i know christine is here and david carl, we think of you as a hero. you once said that the goal of the constitution was to form a more perfect union was inspirational but also aspirational. i know that i speak for many in this room when i say your dedication serving the public good and defending the public constitution on behalf of all americans is an inspiration. you defend the constitution for all americans even if it might cost you, in your own career. i can't think of anything more
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that i admire more in a person than that. and i would admire you even if your middle name wasn't patrick. but i admire you for doing that. [ applause ] and i think everybody here knows what i'm talking about. that's why we all admire you. a few years ago i chose to stay at the helm of the judiciary committee. those sessions, i did that because i thought it allowed me to defend the constitution. and -- judge, thank you for being here. that's why it's such an honor to be recognized by the constitution project tonight. we worked arm in arm so many years. we've worked to defeat legislation, was there to limit the right of federal habeas
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corpus. can you imagine, we fought them and we won. we fought to end torture in and secret detention. not because just it's the right thing to do, but it's basically un-american. and we fought it. we fought to provide adequate funding for public defenders. something i believe strongly in. i spent eight years as a prosecutor. i want to see good public defenders. we passed the innocence protection act. think of the number of people who are on death row who are now free and the person who actually committed the crime is behind bars. doesn't that speak to what america should be? we're going to continue to work. we have to push our great nation to live up to the ideas of the constitution. it's not just a goal. it's not something that happens automatically.
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i think our founders knew you have to fight for that single day, persistent, determination, an unrelenting commitment to core american values. it also means that sometimes you got to admit we make mistakes. our nation has faced times of great fear and stress. we sometimes reacted in ways that strayed from our core principles of democracy and freedom. but in the greatness of our countries we have learned from those mistakes and make sure we don't repeat them. we shouldn't hide from the errors of the past. we've had them. other countries may try to hide them. we are america. don't hide them. admit them. learn from them and get better. that's why the founders designed the constitution that contained a way to improve it. each generation has done just
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that. we've improved the original document by guaranteeing protection for individuals by expanding the franchise, by protecting many freedoms we hold dear, by acknowledging the fact that all human beings are human beings. all, no matter who they are, men or women, no matter the color of their skin, no matter who they are. we're all americans. we're all human beings. and we're reminded there's progress to be prepared to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, the second founding commemoration reminds us of our steady efforts to form a more perfect union. every generation has to do that. we made great progress in the last two and a half centuries. the things that we accepted when
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the constitution was written, we wouldn't accept today. women were considered second class citizens. can you imagine? the fact that we would segregate based on the color of our skin. can you imagine? and jenny, in your comment you spoke of the grave errors we made, the recent decades of the cia's use of torture and secret prisons in the wake of the september 11th terrorists attacks. these things were done to make us safer. they did not make us safer. i would argue they demeaned the greatest nation on earth. it was wrong. it should never -- [ applause ] it was abhorrent. it was wrong and president obama ended the program the day he took office. but somewhere in the last year
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we fully understood what happened. we had the work of the senate on intelligence and i commend dianne feinstein on this and the constitution's project finally found out what happened. it wasn't easy to shed light on this. but when we did, we demonstrated to the rest of the world that we're different. we're a great nation in part because we're always trying to do better. our government has also gone too far on intruding on american's privacy rights, in the name of countering terrorism. something senator paul and i have talked about many times. in 2013 we learned that nsa has been engaging in the dragnet collection of the private telephone records for years. relying on deeply flawed interpretation of section 215 of
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the usa patriot act. we found out it did not keep us safer from terrorist attacks. i remember the testimony and i asked, well, how many, how many terrorist attacks? well, 52. well, maybe 20. well, 12. well, eight. well, there was one that we were involved in after the fbi had found the people. now, section 215 expires in a few short weeks. some want to just expand it. i want to work with both republicans and democrats for some real reform. i think we have to end this bulk collection program once and for all. it's not what we are as americans. it does not make us safer. and it is foolish to give this to the next generation. and then --
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[ applause ] -- we passed mandatory minimum sentencing laws. that has not made us safer. it has driven our federal prison population to historic highs, nearly 800% increase in 30 years, a third of the department justice budget is not in stopping terrorists. these laws do not help us. i oppose all mandatory minimums. [ applause ] let's restore discretion to judges. and you'll find this is on the right and the left. rand, i think you'll agree with that. you know, senator rand paul and i introduced the justice safety valve act.
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it restored discretion to judges. it restores sanity of our system. it's not because judges will be right every single time. of course some will make a mistake. but to pass a law and say one size fits all is foolish. it's wrong. it doesn't help our country. as a former prosecutor, i'm opposed to it. so the president has power under the constitution to offer clemency to those hired by mandatory sentences. very little time left in this administration. i hope the president will step up with this and say, let's change this. but i've spoken too long. i'm preaching to the converted on so many things. but dammit, it's nice. [ applause ] it's nice to be with the converted.
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it's nice to share this award with my dear friend rand paul. it's nice to have people actually care about the constitution. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you so much, senator leahy. now to present the award to senator paul, i would like to introduce one of my dear friends, one of my oldest julie. i want to tell one story to embarrass julie. and that is that her husband, ron white who is here somewhere, he's the deen at the university of baltimore law school. and i went to their wedding how many years ago?
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20-some-odd years ago. and even at that time one of their vows were that they would always work together to obtain criminal justice reform. it was a strange wedding vow, but from ron and julie, it's what they do and it's who they are. and i can't think of a better person to present the award to senator paul. [ applause ] >> i didn't expect that. but yes, our vows did involve sentencing. some of you in this room were there. thank you, jenny. and thank you so much for the tremendous honor you've given me in introducing senator rand paul, one of the recipients of the 2015 constitutional champions award. if you look up senator rand paul's official bio, as i did,
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to prepare for these remarks, you'll read he was born in pittsburgh, raised in texas, went to baylor before he went to medical school at duke. and yada, yada, yada, yada. that's what they want you to believe. i'm not buying it. after looking at senator paul's record, i've decided that there's a different theory of his true origins. i believe senator paul was created in a secret laboratory by scientists working for jenny sloan and the constitution project. hear me out on this. for years the constitution project has defended the guarantee of due process and championed a separation of powers that prevents overreaching presidents from infringing on our basic freedoms. and then seemingly out of nowhere an ophthalmologist from kentucky comes champion of liberty so well versed in the constitution and he shatters the status quo by standing on the
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floor of the senate for 13 hours in order to remind colleagues and fellow citizens of the importance, the necessity and the near sanctity of the rule of law. how did that just happen? and the constitution project has fought government surveillance and intrusions of individual privacy. and yet in just a few years senator rand paul has become a leading critic of nsa surveillance programs and all other unconstitutional government snooping schemes. closer to my heart, they've sought the build bipartisan support for criminal justice reform including the eliminating of the mandatory sentencing laws. and if on cue, senator rand paul enters and co-authors the justice safety valve act that would restore discretion over sentencing to where it belongs,
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not in the politicians' hands in washington but in the hands of the courts across this country. see, my theory doesn't sound so strange now. and there's one more thing. jenny sloan and the constitution project have always believed that safeguarding constitutional values could only be done by bringing people together and to find consensus solution to the most contentious issues, they're right, of course. so how lucky they are to have found senator paul, a leader who proves that you can be passionate and still pleasant. a champion who expresses bold ideas in a plain spoken and civil manner. thank you senator paul for reminding all of us, politicians, advocates and citizens alike, that we can disagree without being disagreeable. i've had the privilege of working directly with senator rand paul and i've even been in meeting where he has told conservative advocates from a not to be named think tank that
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they can't just support white collar sentencing reform. they must support reform for all people of all colors including nonviolent drug offenders. [ applause ] and i saw senator paul's commitment when he crossed the capital to meet and express his opposition to an unjust but very popular mandatory sentencing proposal. senator paul's support for justice reform has received a lot of media attention. but it's what's done behind the scenes that he's doing without being watched, without being seen that has impressed me the most and makes me very grateful that he's on my side. senator paul is without a doubt a champion of the constitution. so even if you don't believe, as i do, that jenny and company created him for this award, i think you'll agree that this award was made for him.
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ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce senator rand paul. [ applause ] thank you. it really is an honor to be here with the constitution project to share this award with senator leahy or get an award the same night as senator leahy. thank you for making this happen. martin luther king wrote in the letter from birmingham jail about what an unjust law was
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martin luther king wrote that it is a code that a numerical majority passes on a minority but does not make binding on themselves. for too long in this country the law was overtly unjust based on the color of your skin. this time has fortunately passed and for the most part we still suffer injustice de facto. there is injustice in the system, intentional or unintentional, it still exists. i don't think this is a conscious effort. we've had some discussion of this. the fbi director recently talked about how we have to be very, very careful of racial, you know, insensitive or racially ÷! i think that's important. but had we see the disparities, i don't think the disparities are necessarily coming from an overt racism. nevertheless, though, there is a disproportionate impact.
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there's something gone awry in the criminal justice system when you look at those who are incarcerated. i was always someone who was kind of doubtful about the war on drugs. but i became more aware of the racial implications of this after i read michelle alexander's "mass incarceration, the new jim crow" which is a profound indictment of our criminal justice system. despite consistent evidence that white kids and black kids use drugs at about the same rate, three out of four kids in jail are black or brown for nonviolent drugs. i think that we miss the boat if we simply say this is just racism. i think that more likely the ultimate source of this is that poor people tend to live close together, there's more crime in cities and the police are there all of the time and the police aren't in the suburbs. so it adds up day in and day out. the answer isn't just racial sensitivity training, the answer isn't just more african american
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police officers. though it is probably part of the answer. that's not the ultimate answer. i think the ultimate answer is in understanding the war on drugs has gone too far. that we've treated the war on drugs and we've treated addiction and we've treated the problems that our kids have as an incarceration issue and not an addiction or a health issue. i think we need less incarceration of people of all races. the injustice is evident in our prisons, i think largely fail away if we begin to dismantle the overzealousness of the war on drugs. as i traveled the country, as i went to ferguson, as i went to chicago, detroit, and all of our big cities, i've sensed an undercurrent of unease. it's not the instances that have happened, it is not the particular instances of a shooting, those that have been helped.
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it's that it's day in, day out. it's kind of like what martin luther king talked about being two americas. one america where you feel that you can be treated in life liberty and the pursuit of happiness is going to be there and everything is fair. and other people who feel like they still have no chance. in ferguson and many cities in missouri 30% of the revenue come in is from tickets and fines. who disproportionately gets these? poor people. 29,000 people live in ferguson and yet there were 32,000 arrest warrants last year. child support. every thinks we ought to pay child support. what if you've been in prison. three years and you get out and make $8 an hour and you owe $3,000. should we put you back in prison because you can't keep up with your child support? it all adds up. people are giving up. george will writes that in california there are 2,000 people who have committed no violent crime, no serious crime and serving 25 years to life.
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you may recall in california though this year they passed proposition 47. they took some of the minor drug felonies and made them misdemeanors. do you know what happened? this was in november. four months later they're finding that they're no longer mandated to release people. people the federal judges are saying overcrowding. you've got to let people out. everybody was being let out. in four months they're finding that violent criminals can serve their entire sentence because they're not crowding the prisons with marijuana crimes. i think the incarceration binge is out of control and it's time we get together, republican, democrat and independent and it's time we fix it. [ applause ] to me it's about the faces and stories.
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rolling stone did a great expo say of this not too long ago. timothy tyler was 23 years old. he's a dead head. naked in the desert. i don't think all dead heads do that. but here's the thing. somebody could have set him straight in life. there could have been another choice. he went to prison for life. he's 46 years old now. he's been in jail for 23 years. he might be in jail for another 40 years. he made a mistake for goodness sake. couldn't we give him a second chance? that's one thing i want to compliment the president on he has gotten some people out of prison, commuted some sentences for people who were in for 15 years when the corresponding white kid in college got six months or nothing. he's done a job to equalize this but we need to change the laws. a while back we changed it from 100 to 1 disparity for cocaine. let's make it one to one. there's no reason we can't fix that. [ applause ]
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people are rotting in prison from these mandatory minimums. the federal judges, three-fourths of them, the majority of them reported by republicans, everybody is saying they don't want mandatory minimums. it take justice out of the equation. the judges need to be given back discretion. but i think justice will only occur when we repeal once and for all all mandatory minimums. [ applause ] now i just want to stipulate that the washington post and i don't always agree. they're not always my best friend. but i'm here to pay a compliment to the washington post for doing a great job and it will be a great disservice to the country if we lose or newspapers. if the major newspapers that do the investigative reporting. the reporting in the washington post is changing minds, it's changing minds in congress. and i can tell you even in the last couple of months we're now
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talking about it. and i know senator leahy was there talking about civil asset forfeiture. but the stories are what get me. a man has a home, a nice home in philadelphia. his teenage son selling $40 worth of illegal drugs out of it. what do they do? they evict the family from the house, barricade the house and take the house without a conviction. it's insane. but too often this is a grandma in the inner city who is the only stabilizing force in the family whose grandson is selling marijuana out of the house and they take the house. we've got to do something about this. to my mind it is thoroughly un-american that the government could ever take your stuff, take your property without a conviction and i think we have to change it. the sooner the better. [ applause ] senator leahy mentioned the collection of phone records.
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millions of people's phone records are being collected. to my mind, when the fourth amendment says you need to name an individual, i don't know anybody named mr. verizon. i think your records, when held by a third party -- this has never been fully adjudicated. but when your records are held by a third party and you have a privacy agreement with them, i think you do not give up your private property interest in your records and you still maintain an interest in those records. [ applause ] one unapologetic senator who i've had a few rounds with says if you're not talking to terrorists, why are you worried? he goes on to say he would sensor the mail if he could. really? this senator goes on to say that when you're an american citizen and they ask for a lawyer, you just tell them to shut up. really? have we stooped so low that that
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is our standard? have we fallen so low that that is our standard? if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. it's a long way from innocent until proven guilty. our founding fathers would be mortified. i think justice will predominate when the accused is always afforded a lawyer, always afforded due process and always afforded a trial. [ applause ] the new yorker also did an expo that affected me profoundly. crime, sent to jail for three years in rikers with no trial. republicans were great with the second amendment. but you know what? somebody has got to stand up for the fourth, the fifth and the sixth which says you get a
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speedy trial. [ applause ] he was kept in solitary confinement. cory booker and i have a bill that gets rid of a lot of the solitary confinement for kids and is going to help us with trying to keep this from happening again. the way i see it, the bill of rights is for the least among us, for the least popular, those who don't dress and act like everyone else. the bill of rights is not so necessary for the prom queen. the bill of rights is not so necessary for the football quarterback. though we'll give them that too. but for the least popular among us. the bill of rights is for especially the unpopular, the minority. but to me, the minority is not just the color of your skin. it could be the shade of your ideology. it could be the shade of your religious faith. what should motivate us all to protect and defend a system that finds justice and protects everyone whether you're rich or poor, black or white, until then i want to be one of those who
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remains ever vigilant and ever weary of those who would trade liberty or justice for a false sense of security. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you so much, senator paul. and now for your last award i'd like to introduce marty baron who is the executive editor of supposed to be in the paper very much in the past couple of days he has been in the paper for something very good, which is the pulitzer that the post just won and for something very bad,
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which is the fact that the post bureau chief in iran is still in prison and about to go on trial. and the statements from marty describe quite accurately how terrifying that situation is. so congratulations for the pulitzer and please come to the podium. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. senator paul, these few moments of friendship have been a wonderful thing. [ laughter ] early this year many leading media professionals gathered to address what we saw as an emerging crisis in free expression. it wasn't just that the rights of the press were under assault in countries around the world, including our own, free expression itself was under threat.
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we wanted the circle of advocates for free expression to widen. we needed more than media organizations to take up the cause, especially the broader business community. after all, free expression means more accountability, less corruption, the open exchange of ideas. so it gives me enormous pleasure this evening to recognize a business that is consistently taken a stand in favor of free expression for many years. twitter. twitter's present and future depend on the flow of ideas, information and opinion. i am also pleased that this award goes to twitter because of its principle stand on an issue that was at the heart of coverage a year ago by the "washington post", massive surveillance by the national security agency which others have spoken about here tonight.
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in service of that surveillance system, the government has compelled large technology providers, including microsoft, google, yahoo! aol, facebook and apple to turn over millions of people's private data. disclosures of the breadth of surveillance touched off of debate. as the aclu noted, surveillance carries profound implications for press freedom, the public's right to information and the right to counsel. in the subsequent furor over those disclosures, many technology companies sought to tell the public more. they wanted to reveal statistics on broader law enforcement requests than they were already publishing. the department of justice resisted. but it ultimately agreed to allow publication of broadbands of certain types of national
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security information request, even as it continued to insist on a number of restrictions. twitter, however, felt the compromise did not go far enough. it did not join in the settlement. it wanted to be still more forthcoming. to describe government requests in more informative detail and to say openly whether it had received no requests of a certain type. the government did not consent. so twitter sued in federal court arguing that its first amendment rights were being violated. twitter, the company said in its filing, is a unique service built on trust and transparency. people, it said, expect to share information "without undue fear of government surveillance." the government prohibition, twitter argued, represented an
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unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech. and i'm proud to say, that "the washington post" is among the media organizations that filed a friend of the court brief to support twitter. this is a battle that has just begun. but twitter has indicated that it's in this for the long haul. the great thing is that it is fighting and fighting hard. so it is now my honor to present the 2015 constitutional champion award to twitter, incorporated. accepting the award on twitter's behalf is colin crowell, twitter's vice president of global public policy. [ applause ] >> thank you.
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>> thank you very much, marty. thank you, jenny sloan and the constitution project. it is with deep appreciation and gratitude for the work that the constitution project does that day in and day out, year after year, in protecting civil liberties that twitter accepts this award. i'm here to accept the award on behalf of my colleagues at twitter. it's also a special honor for us to be recognized for these issues along with senator paul and with senator leahy as well. senator paul has been a vocal
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advocate of constitutionally protected freedoms. and as he just shared with all of us, he, too, is in it for the long haul in protecting these freedoms and has been quite active also on our platform and participated in a twitter q and a recently down at south by southwest. and senator leahy has an unparalleled record of defending civil liberties from his position in the senate and the senate judiciary committee. and twitter proactively supported senator leahy's legislation, the usa freedom act, in the last congress and we will be back along with our sister companies as part of the reform government surveillance coalition and actively involved in that. on capitol hill in this session of couldn't grease. we're very proud to share the stage tonight with both of you and we'll continue to work with you to defend and respect our users' voices and our user's
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rights. marty touched on this a little bit in the introduction, but what i thought i would do is talk a little bit about why a company like twitter would care about these issues. so a little bit of background on twitter because what i find in my job as i go around is i know that awareness of twitter is very, very high. actual use of twitter can sometimes lag a little bit, but by way of background, twitter's goal is to bring people closer to what's most meaningful to them, and as hopefully most of you know, we do that by allowing people to share brief, 140-character messages with the world that we call tweets, and over time these tweets have evolved so that they can now also include brief six-second looped videos from vine or other short-form video fare, photos, screen shots, and most recently, links to a live broadcast-type
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content from a news service we call parascope. for almost 3 hundred million users around the world, twitter is a live, conversational way to share thoughts and perspectives instantaneously. now, one of the facts i learned on my first day at twitter was that -- from the very first tweet that was sent by one of our co-founders jack dorsey, from that first tweet, it took 3 years, two months and one day to go from that first tweet to the one billionth tweet. twitter serves a billion tweets every two days. so the volume of contend that is shared on the platform in multiple languages with diverse perspectives is really rich and another fun fact for you to take home, maybe try out later, is that it apparently would take
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361 tweets to tweet out the u.s. constitution, so if you wanted to do that when you get home later, fun for the feeble-minded, you could try that. so twitter connects people and ideas. it connects elected officials as many people here in the room would know to their voters. it connects causes to constituents, celebrities to their fans, families to far away loved ones, neighbors to each other in times of crisis and just about every combination as diverse as the global community itself. twitter users have the power to make their own experience but they are also exposed to the ideas and perspectives of others. one of the wonderful things about twitter is it's often a discovery engine for our users. you will find content on there that you might not otherwise run into or expect to find. so a person's time line can be filled with inspiring content and searing commentary. it can be filled with breaking
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news. twitter, as you know, is often an important window into breaking news around the world, and for journalists and activists and individual citizens is a medium that bairs witness to history and also bares witness to atrocity. that is something that's an important feature of the platform. so like the rest of the internet, twitter has seen posted content of painful content, natural disasters, tear -- terrorism, government repression around the world, it's a place where people can find connectedness, find information, conversation and where empathy can be shared. so the key thing in thinking about that for us at twitter is
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to recognize that our role is the provider of this open platform for free expression is to recognize that that speech is not our own. that speech is the speech of our users. and so -- as the public sharing of the thoughts and opinions of those who come to twitter seeking to share such content with the world, it's precisely because it's not our own content that we feel that we have a duty to respect and defend those voices. on the platform, and to allow our platform to be a place and remain a place where users can discuss whatever they want, whether we agree with it or not. whether we agree with what they're saying, agree with their perspective, the platform is open. the platform in any debate is neutral. the platform doesn't take sides. so that openness, that instantaneous connection to ideas and perspectives and breaking news events is something that we are
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continually working on to innovate on and protect, improve and enhance as a user experience on the platform. why would we care about government surveillance and privacy issues here in washington? and beyond. it's because these issues now go to the heart of what twitter is all about. it reflects an interest in our core values as a company, as a collection of individuals who are working at twitter. but it is also something that reflects the fact that twitter itself is compelling because our users' voices make it compelling. for that reason, defending and respecting the user's voice has been a core value and animates our efforts around freedom of expression. we also believe that the work we do to defend and respect the user's voice is an important part of what brings people to twitter instead of perhaps going to some other platforms.
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as a result, for us, it's not only good ethical practice but we believe it's good business practice. it's a good business plan for us. so our efforts to reform government surveillance practices and provide greater transparency stem from this core understanding of our business and our platform. one of the great things i love about the company and drew me to the company to work for was that it has always been willing to put its money, time, resources, employee efforts and basically put its mouth, its tweets and people and resources where these issues come to the fore. some of this occurs on work you will never hear about. some of this work will be on things like pushing back on a
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warrant or noticing a user about a subpoena request for their user information and providing links to resources so they can seek pro bono counsel. some of this work is public but often doesn't get a lot of coverage. things like resisting production and fighting motions to compel the production of user data from plaintiffs trying to identify a twitter user using a pseudonym who may have been sharing personal commentary or opinion about a ceo or some controlling authority, a politician somewhere in the world. so those are things that are important to twitter and for things that we work on. and some of you have already heard and have about referenced here the lawsuit twitter versus holder. as our deputy general counsel explained in his filing when we file the suit, it's our belief we are entitled under the first
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amendment to respond to our users' concerns and to the statements of the u.s. government officials by providing information about the scope of u.s. government surveillance, including what types of legal process have not been received. and we should be free to do this in a meaningful way rather than in broad, inexact ranges. so our lawsuit continues. we're committed to seeing it through. the next step will be a hearing on may 5th on the government's motion to dismiss parts of the case. and we have appreciated the outpouring of support that we have received here through amicus efforts and "the washington post," as well as the electronic frontier foundation and many others who agree that this issue concerns core first amendment. we appreciate the opportunity to take those issues and challenges and concerns to the northern district of california.
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even as we continue our court proceeding, we will be engaged here in washington. there's a lot going on on these issues here this spring. we will continue to build our business in a way that makes us proud and constantly reaffirm our commitment to defending and respecting the user's voice. i had mentioned at the beginning that i was accepting this award on behalf of my colleagues. i wanted to just by name mention several of them. viga gati, colleagues on the legal end, trust and safety in california, dell harvey, ben leigh lee, amy keating, jeremy, as well as the team, the twitter team here in washington who are here at the event, will cardie, mary ann, lou wexler are here as well. i wanted to acknowledge them, their work and recognize that
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this is a company-wide commitment to these issues. again, i thank jenny sloan and the constitution project, marty, for the introduction. thank you all very much. [ applause ] >> we're almost done. i'm chair of the board for tcp. my job is to thank all of you for coming tonight to support their work and to support our three honorees this evening. once again, our friends at jones day have arranged for a fabulous venue and great weather. the thing that i like most about this event is that as jenny and her team at the constitution project do in all of their work,
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they bring together people from across the spectrum and find agreement. and the remarks you heard tonight from our three honorees are just a perfect illustration of the type of things that the tcp does and what they stand for. so it's been a wonderful evening. i want to make sure to thank all of our sponsors who helped make this event happen. everyone who turned out for this lovely evening. and as you come away from this, first of all, don't forget to stop and have some gelato. as you come away from this and think about what you heard from senator leahy and senator paul and collin, on behalf of twitter, remember these issues affect all americans. i think senator paul said that a lot of what you think about the
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bill of rights and criminal justice reform is for the down troden. but the work in terms of protecting privacy and those subpoenas to mr. verizon and to twitter certainly affect all of us. i don't use twitter. i'm sorry. my kids do. so it affects our kids. we should care about this. it's fantastic there's an organization here in washington like the constitution project that brings people together to address these issues. the last thing i have to do before i thank you and bid you good evening is remind you, tcp can't do this without your help. obviously, the folks who sponsor, who bought tickets tonight, people who respond to the campaigns throughout the year, the foundations that support tcp help make this happen. i would ask you, there's an envelope you got on your way in. you can put something in it on the way out or stick it in the
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mail. please do what you can to help tcp and for all of the lawyers in the room, i know there's plenty of you here, we're always looking for volunteers to help with our work. please reach out. thank you all. have a great evening. [ applause ] tonight on american history tv, the magna carta's 800th anniversary, justice hale discusses america's legal heritage.
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at 9:40 p.m., law professors talk about the origins of magna carta and its influence on the bill of rights. all of them coming up tonight on american history tv on c span 3. next an interview with republican congressman steve russell of oklahoma. part of our series of interviews with freshman members of congress. after a long career in the u.s. army, congressman russell became an advocate for veterans and later served in the oklahoma state senate and is a successful author, motivational speaker, and owns his own rifle manufacturing company. this interview from the
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congressman's capitol hill office is 25 minutes. >> congressman steve russell from oklahoma's fifth congressional district as a freshman representative, a few months into the job. is it what you expected? >> i think the legislative pieces are. i served a term in the state senate in oklahoma so i saw how the sausage is made and whether you're playing junior varsity or pros that rules in the stadiums are the same, but one's bigger, and in terms of the dynamics, i think the surprising thing has been a lot of the division and gridlock we get accused of is it's surprising it's not necessarily fermented by us. -- necessarily fomented by us. it's outside groups that seem to period of time from the division, and, you know, dust it up to raise money. >> how do you fix it? >> i think you fix it by -- the american public has a low opinion of congress, and yet most people like their particular congressman or congresswoman. i think just trusting us a little bit, that the things that we are trying to communicate back, if they are in contradiction to the i love
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america or i hate america pac, whatever it might be, maybe take the information that we have and realize there's some truth behind it. >> walk us through your routine. oklahoma is not the easiest place to get to from washington, d.c. >> how often are you in washington? what's your daily routine here in d.c.? when you go back to the district. >> well, oklahoma city, it is, you know, in the middle of the country, and it does take time to get here. i will be here not every weekend do i go home. some weekends there's just things to do. if there's a particular large bill that's going to be in mark-up, in committee, that's 600, 700 pages long, that takes time to read, so i try to do the diligence, what i was elected to do. other times, you know, i was a national speaker for eight years with premier speakers bureau
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traveling all over the country, and i still do some of that, but the rules have changed on what that is, but i still get around. i was in missouri this past weekend speaking. so i won't get home every weekend, but i try to get home about two weekends a month, and then i'll be here, the remind every of the time or in and out of here. >> let's talk about you. why did you decide to run for congress and when did you think of public office? >> politics has been a surprising path. i retired from the united states army infantry in 2006. i had been deployed three out of five years, so it was pretty hard on my family. my oldest daughter at the time was -- she was a senior in high school, so i wanted to settle all of our kids, the last chance that we had, and so i took it. i did a lot of veterans advocacy
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work, traveled around the country, trying to take my personal story to convince people to back the troops while they fought rather than bicker about it, and let them get it done. in the course of that, that gathered the attention of politicos and others and before i knew it, i was approached to run for state senate in oklahoma and ran in 2008. i did a term there, left in 2012 under my own volition, and did my own business. i had a rifle business that i wanted to pursue, in my book and in my speaking. coming to congress, really, was not on the horizon. it was a result of when senator dr. tom coburn retired early, james langford ran for his seat but in doing so, it vacated oklahoma's fifth district.
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i looked at it. i saw a path to get there. i thought i don't want to look back on my life thinking that maybe i could have helped my country. and didn't try. i thought, win or lose, i'll try. people in oklahoma sent me here. it's been a real honor. >> you come from a long military tradition. the army in particular. talk about that and also why you decided to begin your career in the military. >> well, my ancestors go back all the way to the revolution serving in uniform, by sixth and seventh grandfathers were captured by the british, imprisoned in detroit until the treaty of paris, and they, you know, were eventually released, and then all of -- nearly every


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