- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

I worked for the FBI as an agent for 26 years. At that time our agency’s interest was chiefly in the arena of law enforcement. Today the FBI spends considerable time on terror prevention.

But sometimes FBI agents conduct criminal investigations of congressmen and their staffs. Scandal on Capitol Hill is expected, and it didn’t take me long to realize that the last thing congressmen and senators want to do is police their own ranks. Likewise their staff doesn’t want to snitch to FBI agents — it would not be considered career-enhancing.

The same hesitance to enforce laws, ethics or morality exists in private industry. Nobody becomes a doctor thinking that part of the job description involves snooping on your own colleagues. Yes, everybody talks about ethics and morality and the need to stay straight. But mostly, it’s lip service. If a coworker starts padding the books, the odds are that he or she will not be reported for fear the group will condemn the whistleblower as overzealous, judgmental or naive. Everyone knows that in all large groups there is going to be some level of corruption. But if not stopped it usually becomes bigger.

Congress is an unusual entity. It has much immunity, so it’s not that members are more corrupt; it’s just that they are more insulated from the usual enforcement agencies and organizations that keep the rest of us in line. Congress is the writer of the rules and laws. They judge what is wrong with the other branches of government. And a judge is not used to others telling him what to do — he usually reacts badly. That’s just the way it is.

So, reform of Congress is a rare thing indeed. The last time there was significant reform, it came when the power changed hands in 1994 — when the voters of this country gave the incoming party in power a mandate to get things fixed. There had been a long string of publicized scandals involving sex, money and other corruptions that come with power — and the people were sickened by it.

And now we are sickened again — or perhaps still.

So, who will watch the congressional pages? A House or Senate committee cannot be trusted to do it — they can’t even keep their own members from stuffing cash in their pockets — or their freezers for that matter.

Recently, a member used the concrete pylons surrounding the buildings on Capitol Hill as his own version of a pinball game. He was so intoxicated he bounced his car from one post to the other until the Capitol Hill police were able to stop him. What happened to the police officers who likely saved this congressman’s life? They were attacked by him and the media for overreacting.

And how about the police officers who insisted that a certain congresswoman identify herself as she tried to bolt through security sporting a new hairdo? They didn’t recognize her and were simply trying to protect the area — their primary assignment. For taking their job seriously they were assaulted by her, and then attacked in the media.

Does anybody believe that the Capitol Hill police are going to protect pages from the intrigues of a devious and deviant predator — who happens to be a congressman or senator? How about the FBI? Will they send a squad of agents out to interview dozens of witnesses about a congressman’s alleged dirty e-mails? Do they have the time?

Yet, high-school students on Capitol Hill need a higher level of protection from dangerous circumstances. Our very society demands it. I would suggest that pages, interns and their parents turn not to the authorities who will apparently ignore them or to the media who will use their information for political purposes. They should instead approach one of the more than half a dozen public-interest groups in the D.C. area who promote quality and accountability of government as their major purpose. Our Patrick Henry Center stands as one of these resources. We know what to do to ensure the safety and protect the reputations of these young civil servants.

Pages and interns come to Washington to make their mark and their contribution. Perhaps the single biggest contribution they will make is to shine a light on a rotten apple. If they do the right thing, the lesson they will learn is that ours is still a government “of the People.” And, righting a serious wrong is considered leadership by good people.

Gary Aldrich served as an FBI agent for 26 years. He iscurrently the president of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty.

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