Open Letter to Congress

March 6, 2006

I sent the following letter today to each Senator and Congressman supposed to represent me, after having read this frankly horrifying post.

I recently learned that Senator Frist has threatened to change the bipartisan nature of the Senate Committee on Intelligence unless the Committee agrees not to investigate the warrantless NSA wiretapping. Even ignoring the fact that he is trying to derail an investigation before it begins, it is reprehensible that he would hold a crucial committee hostage in this fashion.

Oversight, necessary for any governmental activities, is particularly important for intelligence activities, where there neither is nor can be any open public scrutiny. One of the stated purposes of the Senate Committee on Intelligence is “to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” It has been able to accomplish this for the past thirty years in part because of its bipartisan and rather neutral nature.

Frist is offering a disgraceful ultimatum: defer to the sitting President and majority party, or he will emasculate the minority party’s representation in this committee. Either option would be a terrible blow to the system of checks and balances designed into our Constitution, and would further reduce the ability of the minority party to forestall majoritarian rule.

Abuse of power is the worst crime a governmental official can commit, because it erodes the very foundation upon which our government was established: public trust and support. Allegations of such abuses must always be taken seriously, especially when there is a large and growing body of evidence supporting them. There are credible allegations against President Bush, and nothing he has done has inspired trust in him. An investigation of the warrantless NSA wiretapping, such as the investigation proposed by Senator Rockefeller, is the only way to reveal the truth and restore flagging public confidence.

Whether or not an investigation reveals any criminal wrongdoings, continued attempts by the President, Senator Frist, and others to thwart any inquiry before it begins makes one wonder what the Administration is trying to hide. President Bush has claimed that people who don’t talk to terrorists over the phone have nothing to fear from NSA wiretaps; by the same logic, surely he has nothing to fear from a Congressional investigation if he has done nothing wrong.

While I am far too young to be able to remember the Nixon administration, the present atmosphere of secrecy and paranoia and the allegations of Presidential abuses make me think I have some idea of what those sickening times must have been like. I hope you will make it a personal priority to do what you can to help see an independent or bipartisan investigation to fruition, since this issue and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s response to it will affect each and every Senator, Congressman, and American citizen.

If nothing else, it’s interesting to see what it was that finally spurred me to contact my elected officials; I was evidently willing to let slide a war fought on fraudulent grounds, two extremely questionable elections, five years of indignities, and so on and so forth. I guess Frist’s asshole move was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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