Three of the largest US telephone companies declined to answer questions from the US Congress about President George Bush’s administration’s efforts to spy on Americans’ phone calls and e- mails, saying the government forbade them from doing so, according to a report in Bloomberg.
What that means is the in the US today the President, and agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) can do what they want to undermine democracy, including undermine Congress, which by the way also consists of elected representatives of the people.
This is not the first time that information about the conduct of the executive branches of the government has been refused to Congress.
Verizon and Qwest said the Justice Department prohibited them from offering any substantive comment on their roles in the spy program. AT&T said Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell invoked the state-secrets privilege to prevent the carrier from commenting, according to the report in Bloomberg.
Whether it is phone tapping or alleged torture of detainees by the CIA, the Congress seems to be almost always the last to know. Even when Congress has demanded information, the administration has procrastinated. And yet Congress votes typically along party lines, when Congress as a whole, as an entity has been belittled.
Earlier this month, the New York Times revealed the use of torture on prisoners by the CIA. The interrogation techniques endorsed by a 2005 Justice Department memo were some of the harshest ever used by the CIA, according to the New York Times. They included head-slapping, exposure to freezing temperatures and simulated drowning, known as water-boarding.
As shocking as the revelations, were the reactions from the elected representatives on Capitol Hill who knew nothing about what was going on.
“I find it unfathomable that the committee tasked with oversight of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program would be provided more information by The New York Times than by the Department of Justice,” Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote to the acting attorney general, Peter D. Keisler, asking for copies of all opinions on interrogation since 2004, the New York Times said.
With centralization of power in the President and the executive of the government, democracy has been reduced in the US to a once in four years charade when the people elect their President, and surrender control of their lives to the person elected. Congress has become impotent.
More frightening is that in the name of fighting terror, the President of the US and his officials in government have consolidated, nay arrogated power, by a series of laws and regulations, including laws on surveillance of people, and a domestic spying program. Some of these rules, particularly the secrecy rules, have even deprived Congress of the right to know what is happening.
Make way for an imperial presidency and a lameduck Congress.