With the prospect of hearings investigating the Bush Administration's domestic spying program looming - pending what should prove a decisive March 7th vote - Senate Republican leader Bill Frist has threatened a dangerous and unprecedented plan to restructure the entire Senate Intelligence Committee to protect the President and to keep the American people in the dark about the violation of their most basic constitutional freedoms.
Glenn Greenwald provides a full rundown on Frist's supremely partisan manuevering, which might well include stripping the Senate Intelligence Committee of the 30 year-old safeguards intended to prevent precisely these sorts of abuses of intelligence for political gain. Taking a page from Tom DeLay's playbook in the House, Frist might even resort to removing any Republican Senator from the committee who won't do his bidding.
That leaves Committee member Chuck Hagel, Nebraska's Republican Senator, in the spotlight and perhaps even in the crosshairs of his own party's leadership. To be honest, Hagel's been uncharacteristically quiet about the situation, so he obviously doesn't think it's ripe for the type of media attention that he seeks. What the situation is ripe for, though, is proving that Hagel is the independent-minded patriot he tries to present himself as to the American public -doing what's right, not what he's told.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid writes of the March 7th vote:
This vote will be a critical test of whether this Republican-controlled Congress can conduct critical oversight of the Bush Administration, the intelligence community, and a Bush Administration surveillance program that has raised many legitimate concerns.
Reid is absolutely correct, and I have no doubt that Chuck Hagel knows it. But, that doesn't mean Hagel couldn't use a reminder that voters in Nebraska know what's going on as well.
Despite the credit he deserves for speaking his mind on hot button issues of foreign policy, the truth is that Hagel's voting record shows him to be as partisan as they come when the cameras aren't rolling and he thinks no one is paying attention. We need to show him that isn't the case here.
This is not about politics but rather about protecting the balance of powers in our federal government and maintaining the integrity of the constitutional right to due process. The work of the Intelligence Committee is too important to be left to the likes of Bill Frist, a politician whose only concern for the War on Terror seems to be how many votes he can milk out of it. These hearings are essential for protecting the interests of the American people - anything less protects only President Bush at the peoples' expense.
So - please - remind Sen. Hagel that the people he answers to are the voters. This close to his committee's vote, Letters to the Editor aren't going to do much good ... though, depending on what transpires, this is sure to be a subject worth writing about come Tuesday. Until then, please contact Hagel in one form or another and tell him that Nebraska supports keeping politics out of foreign intelligence but keeping accountability of the President in. We want fair and open hearings on the scope of these possibly illegal activities and the extremely suspect authority under which they were ordered.
Contact Hagel's office:Or send an online comment here.
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