The immediate focus of this most worthy effort is on a vote scheduled for March 7th by the Senate Intelligence Committee to determine whether hearings should be held investigating this dangerous and fundamentally undemocratic infringement on basic civil liberties. Republican Committee Chair Pat Roberts of Kansas was the first target of the letter-writing campaign - hence, "The Kansas Project" - but I've been asked to encourage Nebraska voters to make a similar stand calling on committee member Chuck Hagel to support the necessary and fully-justified investigation of Bush's blatant abuse of presidential authority that may well be a direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
March 7th - that doesn't give much time to get the word out, but a letter written to your local newspaper (or your hometown newspaper, to our expat readers) today or tomorrow is likely to run in time to at least draw people's attention to this important issue that the Republican Party will otherwise do everything in their power to kill under cover of darkness.
An open and fair hearing - that's all we're asking for. The American people deserve nothing less as the freedoms they hold so dear are called into question.
The following ground rules and suggested talking points come from Glenn Greenwald, one of the organizers of "The Kanasas Project":
The letters and editorials should be individually formulated and expressed (preferably including a Nebraska address), but, to ensure that we have a clear and focused message, the following points can be emphasized by those writing letters and Op-Ed pieces:
* Independent of one’s political party, it is vitally important that Congress, and specifically the Senate Intelligence Committee, fulfill its important oversight duties by holding hearings on the scope and reach of the Administration’s warrantless NSA eavesdropping on American citizens. Americans deserve an investigation by our Congress into this eavesdropping, which took place without any oversight, so that we are informed about what our government did and can make reasoned judgments about these important issues.
* Concern over the legality and necessity of warrantless eavesdropping on Americans cuts across party and ideological lines. Numerous prominent conservatives -- including Grover Norquist, George Will, former Rep. Bob Barr, and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback –- have expressed serious objections to the notion that the Government should eavesdrop on American citizens without any oversight at all. The conflicts raised by warrantless eavesdropping are not partisan or ideological, but instead, implicate the most important constitutional safeguards on which our system of government is based.
* We all favor strong and aggressive eavesdropping against terrorists. The question which requires Congressional scrutiny is why the Administration eavesdropped without the judicial oversight which the American people, through our Congress, required by law. The purpose of this law was to ensure that the Government cannot abuse its eavesdropping powers (as it has in the past) when eavesdropping on American citizens. Because the Administration eavesdropped without this judicial oversight, only Congressional hearings can enable Americans to learn whether the eavesdropping was properly conducted.
* Regardless of one’s political orientation, the NSA program has provoked intense controversy among Americans. Recent polls show that half of all Americans believe that the program violates the law and is wrong. Thus, on a matter of such importance which is dividing our country, both sides in the debate would be well-served by bringing facts to light, a result which can be achieved only if the Senate Intelligence Committee holds hearings on these matters.
* As demonstrated by this week’s controversy over President Bush’s decision to turn operations of some of this country’s most important ports over to the United Arab Emirates, Congress has a critically important role to play in exercising oversight over the Executive branch, even in areas of national security. Our nation was founded on a system of checks and balances because even well-intentioned political officials are prone to errors in judgment.
By ensuring that the branches of Government oversee and check one another, our Founders created a system where errors in judgment and abuses are minimized. Particularly on matters as important as defending our country from terrorist threats and eavesdropping on Americans by the government, those core American principles compel oversight and hearings by our Congress.
* Numerous Republicans and Democrats have called for the Senate Intelligence Committee to hold hearings. The Committee Chair made public commitments to hold such hearings, which can be structured so as to prevent disclosure of operational details which should remain secret. The American people are entitled to be informed about these matters, and we urge Sen. Hagel to fulfill his duties of Congressional oversight and support meaningful hearings on this matter.
A good idea for which there simply might not be enough time for proper execution, I nevertheless encourage readers to write a letter to the editor to the World-Herald, the Journal-Star, or even their hometown newspaper. Or, call-in to local talk radio on this vitally important issue.
And, of course, to reach Sen. Hagel personally (well, one of his staffers), contact:
Washington, D.C. (202) 224-4224
Omaha office (402) 758-8981
Lincoln (402) 476-1400
Kearney (308) 236-7602
Scottsbluff (308) 632-6032
You are also welcome to submit a letter here.