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Mr. President, Tear Down This Wall

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Message Jayne Stahl
 Nearly 20 years ago to the day, on June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan admonished Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall. Several years and several thousand miles from that historical moment, on Capitol Hill today, a former attorney general of the United States met behind closed doors with a House Intelligence panel to discuss, in secret, whether or not the president's clandestine NSA electronic surveillance program broke the law.

Not only was this meeting withheld from citizens, and those who pay congressional salaries and Mr. Ashcroft's pension, but the press was kept out, too.. Indeed, it would seem that reporters were fed tiny morsels of bread by Mr. Ashcroft, as well as Intelligence Committee members, such as chair Silvestre Reyes, who said only that "there was robust and enormous debate within the administration about the legal basis for the president's surveillance program." (AP) Arguably, "robust" is an adjective that might work better when describing Chardonnay than when detailing an admission on the part of one of the framers of the president's "war on terror," an undeniable appearance of wrongdoing on the part of this commander-in-chief and his chief henchmen. But, then, we live in the age of phrases like "unlawful enemy combatants," so why not splurge a little.

And on this day when one is at a loss to find any "good guys" left anywhere comes news from California congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the House Oversight Committee, that the vice precedent has decided to secede from the executive branch, and declare himself exempt from the procedures required to protect classified information. How very KGB-ish. What's more, Mr. Cheney suggests that if the National Archive doesn't want to grant him immunity, then simply get rid of the offending agency within the archive, or maybe get rid of the whole bloody thing. Hell, why not throw out the Supreme Court, too, if they get out of line---wait a minute, not a good idea, after all, he wouldn't be the vice president now were it not for the Supreme Court. And, if Gorbachev wouldn't go for this logic, Kafka sure as hell would.

Well, I have some breaking news for Mr. Ashcroft who refused to take questions from the press after his closed door meeting, and for Mr. Cheney who thinks he is above the law, and can rewrite the Constitution, as well as for those members of Congress we elected to represent us--we, the people, find your secrecy and simultaneous assault on our privacy to be not merely contemptible, but thoroughly unacceptable. There isn't a hangar wide enough for justice, nor a closet large enough for any who violate the public trust to hide. And, we the people, a portion of whose paycheck, every week, every year, goes to pay for your children's education and fight your wars, we say, yet again, no taxation without representation; you do not get to mete out the truth, and nuance facts, from your foxhole; there can be no representation behind closed doors.

Mr. President, tear down this wall! It is America now that is cowering, and hiding its tracks like a rogue state. It is up to Congress to insist on a change of course, and to demand transparency, glasnost. It is up to members of the House and Senate investigating this duplicitous and dastardly breach of the oath of office to uphold the Constitution, to tell those who break the law then try to make it law, that we see right through them. We see right through their chicanery, mendacity, will not allow ourselves to be spoonfed spin, and then told it's manna. We will not let these born again jihadists turn the White House bought and paid for with our blood, the blood of our ancestors, and with our tax dollars, into the axis of their ugly, hellish white lies.

If, as Mr. Ashcroft contends in his first official statement, he's concerned that "the framework we have for defeating terror, defending the liberty and security of the United States in the context of our Constitution...remains intact," (AP) then let him come out from behind closed doors, let us hear the whole truth, the whole story, and let the chips fall where they may.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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