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The time has come to investigate

The question of who gets to define our patriotism: alive and well in 2006
This story does not seem to be going away easily. Our current president asserts that he has the right to order that information be collected about us without the legally required court protection for civil liberties. New revelations appear almost every day about how widespread the recently practice of spying on American citizens has become, and many of us are still very uncomfortable.
Yesterday The Washington Post reported that NSA gave several other agencies the information that had been collected for cross-checking. The article begins,

Information captured by the National Security Agency’s secret eavesdropping on communications between the United States and overseas has been passed on to other government agencies, which cross-check the information with tips and information collected in other databases, current and former administration officials said. The NSA has turned such information over to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and to other government entities, said three current and former senior administration officials, although it could not be determined which agencies received what types of information. Information from intercepts — which typically includes records of telephone or e-mail communications — would be made available by request to agencies that are allowed to have it, including the FBI, DIA, CIA and Department of Homeland Security, one former official said.

This domestic surveillance story broke a few weeks ago and the furor has not yet died down. The ACLU has just purchased a full page ad in the New York Times. They have also called on Attorney General Gonzales to appoint a Special Counsel on NSA Domestic Spying.

It was gratifying to know that legislators, our elected watchdogs, were very concerned about the practice of warrentless domestic surveillance from very early on. CNN reported on 12/19/05 that there are some congressional leaders who are interested in investigating the NSA spying program. To quote,

Democratic House leaders called Sunday for an independent panel to investigate the legality of a program President Bush authorized that allows warrantless wiretaps on U.S. citizens, according to a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
“We believe that the President must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people, but that intelligence must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation,” the letter says.

Sending a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert were: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Minority Whip Steny Hoyer; John Conyers, ranking member on House Judiciary Committee; and Henry Waxman, ranking member on House Committee on Government Reform.

It is vital that these legislators understand that people all over the United States support them in their calls for an investigation. The combination of support for those who want to do the right thing, to pressure on those who do not, is the only thing that will assure that it happens.

You can contact any of the above House Members at this First.gov legislative site. And don’t forget to contact your own representative at this easy site. Write to them even if they do not belong to your party, by the way, particularly if they seem to be resistant to congressional oversight of this matter.
You can contact any of the following senators, who have also spoken out, at this First.gov site.
They include, but are not limited to: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada; Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin; Senator Carl Levin, D-Michigan, a member of the Intelligence Committee, who said,

. . . it is possible the president’s action was illegal, but that should be determined
through hearings. “But I don’t want to prejudge whether the president broke the
law,” the Michigan Democrat said on “Meet The Press.” “We need an explanation.
We need it fast. The American public is entitled to the protections of the law.”

Also speaking out were: Senator Charles Schumer, D-New York, Senator Joseph Biden, D-Maryland, and Senator Barbara Boxer, D-California, has called on Senator Specter to hold these hearings ahead of the Alito confirmation hearings. Senator Diane Feinstein, D-California’s floor statement is carried on Yuba.net. And here I quote from the Detroit News about her view,

“If this article is accurate, it calls into question the integrity and credibility of our nation’s commitment to the rule of law,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the intelligence and judiciary committees.

Top Republicans also called for hearings, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, member of Judiciary Committee, was quoted by CNN,

“We have to resolve the issue to show Americans we are nation of law not outcomes,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
“I would like to see the intelligence committee look into it.” “There is a theme here that is a bit disturbing,” the Judiciary Committee member said.
“If you allow him [Bush] to make findings, he becomes the court. You can’t allow him or others to play the role of the court because then others adopt that model when they hold our troops.”

Senator John McCain, quoted by CNN said that,

. . . if the matter goes to a congressional panel that the intelligence community
should investigate. “You’ve got to be very careful about putting into the open situation” sensitive information “that would be helpful to al Qaeda,” he said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said that he would call congressional hearings as soon as possible. Quoting from CNN,

Warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens is “wrong, and it can’t be condoned at all,” he said. In 2002, according to former officials familiar with the policy, Bush signed an executive order granting new surveillance powers to the National Security Agency — the branch of the U.S. intelligence services responsible for international eavesdropping, and whose very existence was long denied by the government.
“I want to know precisely what they did: how NSA utilized their technical equipment, whose conversations they overheard, how many conversations they overheard, what they did with the material, what purported justification there was … and we will go from there,” Specter said.

Here is an easy e-mail portal for contacting your own senator as well as any of the national legislative leaders listed above.

Here are just two of the many formally organized efforts to get congress to investigate domestic spying:

  1. Electronic Frontiers Foundation 12/22/05 – “Take Action: Demand that Congress Investigate the Bush Administration’s Illegal Wiretapping.
  2. Act for Change, “Congress: Investigate Bush’s Illegal Domestic Spying” tools for actually getting involved with e-mails, etc.

Excellent reference: Bruce Schneier’s blog, 12/21/05 – “The Security Threat of Unchecked Presidential Power”

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