Friday, December 30, 2005


I can remember when Deep Throat was a national mystery, a heroic person who risked great odds to relay the truth about what was going on in Richard Nixon's administration to two Washington Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein.

How times have changed!

Some whistleblower decided to relay the truth about the wiretapping activities of President Bush and the NSA to a New York Times reporter. An uproar ensued, with talk of a Congressional investigation and an avalanche of indignation from the public, who aren't too happy about many provisions of the Patriot Act, let alone a carte blanche invitation to the FBI to listen in to their phonecalls.

Yet, amidst this indignation, supporters of Bush decried the activities of the disloyal soul who would tell of these wiretaps to a reporter, calling him a traitor. We are at War, they say, and thus this leak has endangered our nation. The President himself called the leak "Shameful!"

Now, an investigation into the identity of this leaker...or leakers..has been instigated by the Attorney General and the Justice Department. So, we have one more investigation to follow. For the past two years, we have followed the course of another leak investigation....and it is not yet completed. This one, too, endangered our National Security by exposing a secret agent and leaving her sources in danger. Patrick Fitzgerald still struggles with the question of who said what first to whom. Only Scooter Libby remains indicted, for lying to the Grand Jury. Probably a few more lies have also been told, if we knew the truth of it all.

Robert Novak, the reporter whose column started the furor over Valerie Plame, recently said that President Bush knows the identity of the leaker. If so, it seems to me that the President would be withholding evidence from a criminal investigation. That is how I always understood the law. But then, laws don't seem to mean much anymore. We may as well just chuck them all out and make up new ones as we go along.

President Bush says, "We are a nation of laws. Just ask me. I've broken every one of them!" He didn't really say that. I made it up. All of these leaks affect a person, like that Chinese torture where a drop of water continually falls on the head.

Anyway, now AG Gonzales has opened this investigation into yet another leaker, so we will be able to follow yet another tangled web of who did what when. It is a bit like trying to figure out which child stole the goodie from the cookie jar. It will be a chorus of "He did it!" "I did not, you did!", etc.

The question remains....should the President have taken it upon himself to approve wiretapping without a warrant? The way I understand it, the special court set up to handle such things...FISA...requires a request to be submitted, either before or after a wiretap is instigated. If before, some criteria is required that proves a wiretap is needed. If afterward, the explanation must be made within 72 hours following the wiretap.

Seems reasonable to me. I feel all wiretapping should have the approval of a judge is because of the record left behind. Without a record of these activities, it would be far too easy to abuse them. It would be far too easy to wiretap political opponents, political offices, etc. These kinds of activities are what brought down the Nixon Administration. Surely we do not want to go through that again.

Since the beginning, I have felt the Patriot Act should be revised, because of the provisions that trample the civil rights of American citizens. I read one Horror Story about a writer who was working on a book set in a Middle Eastern country and who took out a great many volumes on this subject from her local library for research purposes. Before long, the FBI was going through her garbage, questioning her neighbors and friends, etc. ...and, as we know now, probably wiretapping her phone.

Is this necessary? Many Americans might want to check out books on the Middle East, because they might have relatives fighting over there, or because they want to educate themselves on this crucial area of the world. Yet few have had the courage to peruse these books in recent years.

This is just one of the areas where civil rights are endangered in the Patriot Act. And it leads us into a tricky area, because there is such a fine line between the rights of individuals and the duty of the leadership to protect its citizens.

But when law enforcement has the right to enter your home, cart you away, take you to an unnamed prison, and keep you there for an indeterminate length of time, without access to an attorney, without access to your family, your friends, it just seems to me that this is going a bit too far. That one phone call may not seem like much, but it would be worth any amount of gold if you were denied it.

If, as I understand, the Patriot Act is over 900 pages long, it needs some study. Has anyone ever read it? And, if they have managed to read it, have they understood it? What's in there? What would take 900 pages to explain? Gone With The Wind is more than a thousand pages, I believe, and it covers an entire prewar period, a war, and its aftermath. Does it take 900 pages to outline the privileges of law enforcement in the United States following 9/11?

Now Congress not only has only nine weeks to look over these 900 pages and perhaps revise them, but they will have to investigate the wiretapping debacle. At the same time, they have so many Defense Funds to worry about. There's the Tom Delay Defense Fund, which is probably the most important, because the Vice President appeared at one fundraiser in Texas on Tom's behalf. Then, there is the Scooter Libby Defense Fund....and Heaven knows what else.

If this need for Defense Funds continues, they may have to give Jack Abramoff a few more legislative favors, in return for a little more cash for the lawyers. But, Abramoff is broke, they say, and can't even pay his own lawyer. He may turn witness for the prosecution, the news reports say, so there may be a few more Defense Funds springing up very soon.

It's hell to be a layman in a world of politicians. We ordinary citizens not only have to follow the law, we have to pay our own lawyers. Maybe more of us should run for something, even dogcatcher might be better than nothing. Maybe we could make a deal with Alpo to serve their food in exchange for some lush vacations.

Leaks. That Washington, D.C. must be like a sieve. They have more leaks than my ancient toilet, which is mildewing on its teetering stand. But, without leaks, the public isn't informed, and without an informed public, those fools in Congress pass things like a 900 page law they don't bother to read.

Someone should start an investigation about that! And, in closing, just be careful what you say over the telephone. Write a letter instead.