Monday 12 March 2007

Draft of letter to Editor of the Goshen News (I'll send once I figure out how to "boil it down")

March 12, 2007

I am writing to thank you for the solid editorial in Sunday's Goshen News regarding the Patriot Act being a ticking time bomb and how the higher-ups now express outrage over many FBI agents having overstepped authority. You closed by asking "Why do we feel like they are saying so with their fingers crossed?" Exactly. And let's scratch below the surface a bit more:

Three short statements gleaned from the USAToday's report on Friday are quite revealing:
1) One government official familiar with the report told the Associated Press that shoddy bookkeeping and records management led to the problems; the FBI agents appeared to be overwhelmed by the volume of demands for information over a two-year period.

2) Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine conducted the audit as required by Congress - but over the objections of the Bush administration!

3) National security letters have been the subject of legal battles in two federal courts because recipients were barred from telling anyone about them. Each NSL amounts to a gag on free speech, thus a federal appeals judge in New York warned in May that the government's ability to force companies to turn over information about its customers and keep quiet about it was probably unconstitutional.

Well, ya think?

Does it take a rocket scientist to figure out WHO is likely issuing the plethora of orders causing these FBI agents to feel so incredibly harried and overworked? The "outrage" of the officials is diverting from the issue about the record numbers of NSA requests, but focused solely on the accuracy of the record-keeping involved to stay compliant with the Patriot Act.

Sen. Feingold, D-Wis., a member of the judiciary panel, nailed it when he said the report "proves that 'trust us' doesn't cut it when it comes to the government's power to obtain Americans' sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage."

So let's think now about where this brings us...we're in a self-declared and permanent state of "war" in which the Constitution and our Bill of Rights are treated as quaint remnants of bygone era; we have a Justice Department led by a man who endorses torture. We have the suspension of habeas corpus, extraordinary rendition, and the ominous legal ideology of a "Unitary Executive" -- giving the US President the virtual powers of a monarch - the ultimate "Decider" he loves to think he is.

President Bush is overtly contemptuous of the very checks and balances necessary to a functioning democracy. He mislead the nation into a 4+ years of war already costing 3,200 American lives and untold billions of dollars, selectively holds himself above the law by "signing statements" intended to subvert the intent of legislation he dislikes, turns the White House staff into a propaganda machine fond of leaking classified information when it furthers his political agenda, and dismantles Constitutional protections by misusing the FBI's energies and side-stepping FISA in the pursuit of rapid domestic intelligence gathering. The proof is out there now.

So, the FBI no longer even pretends to operate on the principle of probable cause. We have an emergent surveillance society, even after a previous Congress discredited and explicitly forbade the data mining program known as Total Information Awareness. But it is not only back again, but back with a vengeance. George Orwell was right, but he was just a little off on the title of his book 1984 - it should have been titled 2007!

Does anyone else feel their nation has been truly hijacked -- and this time it's an inside job? I would like to think so, because current polls tell us 60 some % of the American people no longer respect what the President is doing in his job - at all. The President hasn't even been listening very well to his own top generals - his decision-making system can't be trusted - it's just plain broken. But he still has the audacity to act as if he is accountable to no one; loves to say and think he's the ultimate "Decider." To put it simply, we now have the most intrusive, cynically partisan and self-interested administration in our nation's history but also, simultaneously, the most secretive and corrupt.

Many innocent people in this country, and in Iraq, as well, are now being flattened by this steam roller whose operator has not proven trustworthy. The slippery slope of fascism looms large! You wonder about that? I encourage readers to take the time to review what historians say are its defining characteristics here or here - then see if you can draw your own parallels.

Senator Lugar, Senator Bayh - where is the outrage lasting more than one weekend news cycle? Where is true leadership in Congress when we really need it - to clearly tell the President that he's got to back down? What does it take for this country to wake up, acknowledge these trends, and seek the change it so desperately needs?

President Bill Clinton underwent impeachment proceedings for actions that basically amounted to marital infidelity on the taxpayer's dime; so I guess Bush/Cheney's transgressions must fall somewhere between "high crimes" and "misdemeanors."

Clair Hochstetler
(my address and phone number)

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