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Jewish Groups Urge Regulation of Congressional Investigations

Jewish religious and civic organizations today issued a joint statement, through the National Community Relations Advisory Council, urging regulation of Congressional investigating committees to prevent excesses.

The statement advances 10 principles for the guidance of Congressional investigating committees designed “to insure fairness, to aid the committees in discovering the facts, and to strengthen and bolster public confidence in legislative investigations.” The 10 principles set forth by the Jewish groups, which include the American Jewish Congress, the Jewish Labor Committee, the Jewish War Veterans, and central religious organizations, provide:

1. Limitation of the scope of Congressional investigations “to those matters in which Congress may legislate or exercise any other power specifically granted by the Constitution.”

2. Prohibition of one-man subcommittees.

3. “Due notice of meetings and other committee action” to all committee members and adequate provision for minority reports.

4. No release of derogatory material before opportunity for rebuttal, and simultaneous release of both rebuttal testimony and original charges.

5. Right of cross-examination for “persons or organizations against whom charges are made in public hearings” and opportunity for such persons or organizations to “present their side of the case publicly as soon as possible after the making of the charge” and in equally public circumstances.

6. Keeping confidential all “material in the files of an investigating committee, not previously released in the form of an official report. “

7. No public evaluation of a person under investigation until the inquiry has been completed and an official report issued.

8. No radio or television coverage of a hearing over a witness’ objection.

9. “Investigating committees should be empowered to invoke the aid of the courts in compelling answers to questions. Constitutional objections and questions of privilege raised by a witness should be tested through summary judicial procedures rather than by defenses in criminal prosecutions. “

10. Empowering of both Houses of Congress to exercise supervision over their committees.

Affirming the need for Congressional investigations and the “notable contributions” of past legislative investigations to the enactment of legislation and the “detection of corruption in government, ” the statement of the Jewish organizations declares that “the need for Congress to be informed cannot justify or excuse abandoning the fair hearings that Americans traditionally have thought inseparable from any just system of laws.”

The statement is the result of months of intensive discussion and interorganizational consultation. It was drafted initially by the American Jewish Congress and thereafter reviewed and revised in the Committee on Civil Liberties of the NCRAC. Approval of the statement was voted without objection at a recent meeting of the executive committee of the National Community Relations Advisory Council. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations neither approved nor disapproved of the statement.

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