Sunday, March 05, 2006

Frist acts to block hearings

Bill Frist writes to Senator Harry Reid (PDF):
we may have to simply acknowledge that nonpartisan oversight, while a worthy aspiration, is simply not possible. If we are unable to reach agreement, I believe we must consider other options to improve the Committee’s oversight capabilities, to include restructuring the Committee so that it is organized and operated like most Senate Committees.
This restructuring the Intelligence committee would turn it into another partisan dominated committee, in which the minority party has no power to oversee or review the work of the intelligence community. The threat is that Senator "Kitty Killer" Frist will destroy the Intelligence Committee if two Republican members join the committee's Democrats to exercise oversight of a major intelligence operation that was never authorized by Congress. This is not partisanship, it's what the Committee is supposed to do.

Geoffrey Stone asks NSA Surveillance: Why Should We Care?:
here are three possible answers for your consideration. If they’re not persuasive, then perhaps you should stop fretting about the NSA and, indeed, about electronic surveillance generally. First, perhaps privacy matters because it’s important for you to be able to lead your everyday life without the sense that the government is constantly peering over your shoulder and preserving for posterity your every word and deed. … Maybe part of being free means knowing you’re not being watched.…

With good reason, we shouldn’t trust the government to care only about criminal acts. … Certainly, we’ve seen this throughout history. Information is power, and power can (and usually will) be abused. Suppose you have to consider that every act, every phone call, every email is permanently preserved in government computers and thus accessible even many years from now to those officials who will decide whether to hire you for a government job, oppose you for elective office, admit you or your child to a public university, or audit your taxes. Might this have an effect on your conduct and conversations?…

Third, perhaps this sort of privacy matters because in a self-governing society we must vigilantly reinforce and preserve the sense of independence and autonomy of the individual. For a self-governing society to function, the citizen must feel that he is the governor, nor the subject. Perhaps it is difficult to feel like the governor when your government has the power to watch your every move. Perhaps limiting the government in this way is essential the well-being of democracy itself.
This is why it was important to institute the restrictions of FISA, and why the Founding Fathers insisted on a Fourth Amendment, and why the Intelligence Committee must not be turned into a partisan forum. It isn't clear that the Fourth Amendment specifically forbids warrantless searches of international communications, but the reasoning behind Congress's decision to establish a law requiring warrants for such surveillance is identical to the reasoning of our Founding Fathers in creating a 4th Amendment, and what is driving a bipartisan group of Senators to demand that the Intelligence Committee exercise oversight.

The public, the Senate, and even the Republican Party, is divided between there's a fundamental clash of values at play. Do we fight the war by any means at all, torturing beating, spying, and so on and so on, regardless of the law, or do we fight and beat terrorists the way we beat the Soviet Union, the Nazis and Japanese, by adhering to the principles that founded this country, including the Bill of Rights, but also the separation of powers and the importance of checks and balances between the branches.

Call Senator Frist and Senator Roberts and tell them to let the Committee do its important work. They meet on Tuesday to discuss hearings on teh spying.

There's more planning information at Vichy Dems, but here's the good part:
KANSANS: If Frist succeeds, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts will LOSE power, because the committee he chairs will have been neutered. If he wants to remain a player in Republican party politics instead of a reliably-impotent lapdog, as well as honor his oath of office to respect and defend the Constitution, he needs to stand up to Frist and demand that his committee's rules be left alone. Kansans need to email, fax and call Roberts' DC and District offices and demand that he not permit the Intelligence Committee's rules to be changed. IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS A KANSAN.
To reach his Washington Office, call 888-355-3588 and ask for Senator Roberts. But call his district offices, too. There's something to be said for having them walk in to offices with full voicemail on Monday.

Dodge City telephone: 620-227-2244
Overland Park telephone: 913-451-9343
Topeka telephone: 785-295-2745
Wichita telephone: 316-263-0416

If you prefer text, you can use the webmail form.
If you live in Lawrence but come from somewhere less stereotypically liberal, it may be better to say that you are from the other place. I can literally hear his staff stop listening to me as soon as I say I'm from Lawrence. And remember you catch more flies with honey. Be polite, respectful and even conciliatory. If you've gotten a letter to the editor, or written to them before, be sure to mention that, too.

Residents of other states should call their senators, especially if you're from Tennessee, Maine, Nebraska, West Virginia or Nebraska.