- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2007

Where there’s smoke…

The conclusion of the Feb. 7 editorial “Watching the terrorists” poses the wrong challenge. Using the bogeyman of terrorism to create new ways to compromise freedom for security truly mocks our nation’s founding principles. Every citizen should understand that our president should be held accountable for breaking the law.

Meanwhile, this administration does everything possible to divert our attention.

Recently, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced the reversal of the government’s previously stated position that it could not comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act without jeopardizing national security.

He said President Bush has renounced the illegal “terrorist surveillance program” and will conduct it under the supervision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Despite the rhetoric, this does not relieve the president of five years’ worth of illegal activity. What is incredible is Mr. Gonzales’ statement that the president can, at any time, return to this illegal surveillance program.

Yet Mr. Bush persists in his claims that he retains the inherent authority to engage in warrantless eavesdropping and that nothing would or can stop him from resuming warrantless surveillance.

The White House “policy shift” stated publicly by Mr. Gonzales is simply smoke and mirrors. Nothing has been revealed except that illegal surveillance still can take place under Mr. Bush. His administration has been relentless in its disregard of the Constitution and erosion of our basic freedoms.

Every American should understand the simple truth. Mr. Bush broke the law for five years, promised to start obeying the law and then said if he felt like breaking the law again, he’s free to do so. I doubt this twisted logic would hold up before any court in the United States. That’s why he’s doing everything he can to stay out of court.

Accountability can begin in Congress, where a review of the warrantless surveillance programs must take place. No more stonewalling, hiding behind false claims of executive privilege or invoking the “state secrets” privilege. Mr Bush broke the law, and even though he may be president, he is not above the law. That’s a founding principle on which we should all be able to agree.

BOB BARR

Chairman

Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances

Atlanta

Sleds, dogs and memories

Margery Glickman’s letter criticizing long-distance dog-sled races such as the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest also leaves a lot unsaid (“Hurting man’s best friend,” Tuesday). On the surface, it doesn’t seem that all the canine health problems listed represent permanent damage or result from racing. The lung damage reported after a race, for example, may include some rawness in the lungs, which recover over some time. Penile frostbite would seem to affect dogs in the wild as much as sled dogs, so how does dog-sledding exacerbate a natural circumstance?

In January 1925, the village of Nome, Alaska, (population 1,500) suffered an outbreak of diphtheria. The local doctor had just six doses of an antitoxin. Emergency resupply from Anchorage (1,000 miles away) was necessary but it was late January, and the coldest weather on record prevailed — temperatures hovered around minus 50 Fahrenheit, dangerous for any outdoor activity, however brief. The only available means for bringing the sera to Nome was dog-sledding down the Tanana and Yukon river valleys to the coast near Nome.

The penultimate team (of 14 relays) was led by a dog named Togo for more than 300 miles, more than six times farther than normal. The musher, Leonard Seppala, had a daughter in Nome who had been exposed to the epidemic. Five persons had died, and 27 others were diagnosed with the disease. The survival of the town was at issue.

The final team, led by Balto, had sortied out from Nome 80 miles to meet Seppala’s relay. On the return, the musher, Gunnar Klassan, was blinded by a blizzard with 80 mph winds. Balto, who had never led before, yet was able to sniff out the trail despite of the white-out, brought the antidote safely to Nome.

Five dogs died of burst lungs. Seen from Miami, this may appear cruel, but to folks in Alaska — and elsewhere — all those dogs are heroes. In fact, there is a statue of Balto in Central Park in New York City. The Iditarod reminds us why dogs are man’s best friends; it commemorates this epic mission and provides training and insight for future emergencies. In Alaska, conditions can be such that in emergencies, only seasoned dogs and mushers can meet the need. The training for and actual running of these races provides necessary preparation for rescue in a wild, expansive and beautiful land.

It would seem that attention to the medical conditions of the dogs is one-sided if it doesn’t also give some measure of the potential benefit to humans. Ms. Glickman’s implication is that we should sacrifice humans for the dogs. Perhaps, to the extent that medical reporting focuses only on the quantitative while ignoring the qualitative. I have been to Nome, when Alaska was a territory and not yet a state, and I’m thankful for its heritage and spirit, which are celebrated continuously in the sled-dog races.

RUSS BREIGHNER

Arlington

Not quite right

Bruce Fein’s Commentary column “Another rebuke” (Tuesday) artfully wraps itself in the Constitution and Magna Carta. However, his assertion that President Bush overstepped his constitutional powers in regard to the writ of habeas corpus and enemy combatants should be viewed as nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to undermine our commander in chief.

It is appalling that he attempts to convince the reader that Mr. Bush seeks to have the “authority to disappear any American citizen anywhere in the world into a dungeon on his say-so alone.” Mr. Fein contradicted this assertion when he previously pointed out that it was a “three-member panel of American military officers” that provided the “say-so” of an “American citizen” being an enemy combatant.

His historic reference should not have been the Magna Charta and King John but of President Lincoln suspending the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. As was pointed out in a biography written by Benjamin P. Thomas, Lincoln also was criticized by a legal justice and the media for taking such a course of action. Maybe Mr. Fein will attempt to convince us that Lincoln’s reasoning behind suspending the writ of habeas corpus was not to preserve our nation but for what he falsely accuses Mr. Bush of seeking: “executive supremacy.”

CARMEN D. VILLANI JR.

Chantilly

America’s repository

Richard Rahn’s column “The imperial Congress” (Commentary, Sunday), which attempts to quantify the costs of supporting Congress, makes some misstatements regarding the Library of Congress.

The annual expenditure cited for the library, $949 million, is overstated by at least $100 million because it appears to double-count construction and maintenance costs spent by the Architect of the Capitol on the library’s behalf. In addition, that total would be reduced substantially further if the author took into account funds recaptured by the library, such as copyright fees or gifts. In the last fiscal year, for instance, fee-based and reimbursable programs brought in roughly $102 million.

More important, Mr. Rahn does a great injustice when he states that the library’s budget is “a lot for books and papers (particularly when most stuff is now free on the Internet).” As the repository of American and international creativity, the Library of Congress holds more than 134 million items, nearly a third of which are in categories other than books or other print materials. Additionally, much of the knowledge contained there is subject to copyright protection and not legally available in full on the Web.

While we are making more digital materials available than ever — more than 11 million items to date — the Library of Congress represents a wealth of information that is accessible nowhere else in the world. Congress had great foresight in ensuring that this information would be available not just for its own needs, but to the public at large, for this generation and those yet to come.

MATT RAYMOND

Communications director

Library of Congress

Washington

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide