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I just got off a phone conference call that the ACLU arranged with Bruce Fein regarding the Hayden nomination for DCI and the implications that the hearings might have for the illegal domestic wiretapping without a warrant in which the NSA has been engaged.

One of the things that Bruce Fein said struck me, and I wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention here:  the Bush Administration is doing everything it can to prevent any of the illegally collected data and information from being used in any courtroom context, because they do not want to have to face the consequences of a constitutional challenge to their failure to obtain a lawful warrant.  Think about that for a moment — Bruce Fein is no liberal, he is a very conservative Reagan Republican, having worked in the DoJ as Deputy Attorney General in the Reagan Administration.

And he is saying, out loud, that the Bush White House is avoiding constitutional scrutiny because they know — they KNOW — they will be shown to be what they are.  Lawbreakers.

And Congress has been letting them get away with this, because they have put their perceived duty to their party and to partisanship and division ahead of their duty to the nation, to our principles and our Constitution.

This must stop.  And that’s where all of our readers come in — if you can, today, please take the time to e-mail, FAX or call the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, first, and ask them to place partisanship aside and put the good of the country and our constitutional system of government first in how they evaluate General Hayden and the NSA wiretapping programs in which he was involved.

Here is a great link to contact information for all of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  You can phone toll free through the Capitol switchboard at 888-355-3588 and they will transfer you to the various Senate offices.

Reader Anne asks an excellent question, one that every member of the Intelligence Committee ought to be asking:

I’d like to ask: “given how any information about NSA programs has only come to our attention through the media, how can I be certain that we have now been fully briefed? Give me a reason why we should trust that we aren’t going to find out in six weeks or six months that there are other programs, or other aspects of the current program that someone just “forgot” to tell us, or decided we really didn’t need to know. How can we be certain, given the president’s predilection for authorizing that laws and procedures can be ignored, that we are only being briefed to the extent that the president has decided is appropriate?”

Amen to that. Let the sun shine in — but the only way that will happen is if we let the members of the Committee, and also our own Senators, know that we expect them to do their jobs — forcefully, appropriately, and completely.  Senators ought not be satisfied with a Jesuit-like, complex answer to a straightforward question, where Gen. Hayden finishes by saying he can’t answer in open session.  The American public deserves answers, not being put off with "trust me" platitudes.  Frankly, I don’t trust them — I’d rather have some facts, and a whole hell of a lot more sunshine.

Please take a little time today to contact the Senators on the Intelligence Committee and also your own Senators and let them know how you feel and what you expect.  After all, they work for us — it’s about damn time they earned their paychecks.

Also, if there are questions that you would like to see asked, put them in the comments.  Let’s see if we can get some of them to folks on the Committee who would be willing to ask them — I’ll see what I can do to harness the brainpower on this website for good.

UPDATE:  I missed another great Bruce Fein point from my notes:  that the Hayden hearings have done nothing to dispel — and have, in fact made it more of a concern — that there is no line that Hayden wouldn’t cross if the President asked him to do so.  Which makes the need for real, meaningful oversight all the more necessary.  Very sobering, isn’t it, to think that our hope for oversight of the Administration’s overstepping might rest on the shoulders of Pat Roberts and Peter Hoekstra.  (Oh, and Arlen Specter.  How COULD I have forgotten Jack Cafferty’s last, great hope?)