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Next Stop—Impeachment!

I can still remember the first days of the breaking of the Watergate Scandal in the press. It eventually toppled President Nixon, as revelations of spying on and lying to the American people poured out.

As Congress grappled with promising to forever fix these egregious abuses of power and the corrupting of the Constitution, a document they swore to defend, my idealistic hope was that we as a nation might never have to confront such internal evils again. Yet, as is said, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and our problem of late has been that this republic has been too frightened to be vigilant.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, released a damning report on the Bush administration last week. In brief, this report states quite bluntly that “We have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war with Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and other legal violations in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration”

The report goes on to say that there is “a prima facie [self evident] case that these actions by the President, Vice-President and other members of the Bush Administration violated a number of federal laws, including (1) Committing a Fraud against the United States; (2) Making False Statements to Congress; (3) The War Powers Resolution; (4) Misuse of Government Funds; (5) federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; (6) federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other individuals; and (7) federal laws and regulations concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence.”

These are accusations that many of us have been lodging repeatedly for the past two years. And now on top of these high crimes, Bush admits on national TV that he approved the domestic surveillance policy that spied on American citizens, without even getting the legal authority or even giving more than a handful of Congress members full and concise briefings on the scope of this abrogation of laws. This now amounts to eight potential counts for impeachment. Need we bring the list to nine or 10 before articles to impeach are drafted? I hardly think so!

Why is it only now that the Democratic minority has found the belated courage to do as they are sworn to do? How is it that Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, just now reveals that she knew about the highly classified program that was subsequently used as a disguise for domestic surveillance?

She claims that, “Due to its sensitive nature, I have been barred from discussing any aspect of this program, and until the President described certain parts of it on Saturday [Dec. 18], I have made no comment whatsoever.” Is it that she is confused about her duty to defend the Constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic?

It is becoming increasingly clear that Team Bush has overstepped its authority, using the Vietnam-era strategy of “destroying the village to save it,” only now those in power are questioning whether destroying the Constitution to save the nation isn’t a dangerously similar game plan. It is disastrously similar, and in the end Bush and his lockstep neocons will do more damage “protecting the nation” than Al Qaeda could ever hope to do attacking the cities of our republic. You simply cannot place a price tag on liberty.

Harman only now admits that, “I am deeply concerned by reports that this program . . . goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed.” Her public statement goes on to list three issues: “(1) It was inappropriate to limit congressional briefings on this program to the so-called Gang of Four—the most senior majority and minority members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. (2) Domestic-to-domestic surveillance requires the approval of a FISA court. It has always been my view that the President must seek FISA approval if domestic-to-domestic surveillance is involved. The FISA statute allows a 72-hour grace period in an emergency. (3) The Blue Ribbon Commission called for by a number of House Democrats is a very good idea. Once armed with full information, Congress can and should change the laws regarding domestic surveillance if warranted.”

She concludes, “We must use all lawful tools to detect and disrupt the plans of our enemies; signals intelligence and the work of the NSA are vital to that mission. But in doing so, it is also vital that we protect the American people’s constitutional rights.”

And just how can we trust Harman, who sits as our watchdog in Congress, or Bush, Cheney and the others to protect our rights now? The truth is—we can’t!

If Jane Harman is ever to regain any semblance of integrity, it is imperative that she, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, help to draft the first articles of impeachment and to use all her years of experience to execute their passage.

In the final analysis we all must ask ourselves and our leaders, “just how can we lead any nation on earth, including Iraq, to accept the rule of law and democracy when we do such a poor job of it at home?”

The prima facie evidence is here to indict the president, vice president and other members of the Bush administration for violating at least eight federal laws, even openly admitting to violating one on national TV. It is time for Congress to act before this country ends up like the Weimar Republic before the Nazis took over Germany. There are some who believe that it is perhaps already too late.

—James Preston Allen


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