Show Yourself, Senator Anonymous

(Editor's Note: The abuses of the FBI under the guise of the Patriot Act aren't the only governmental abuses that should be a concern. Here's a look at failed bipartisan attempts to reform the intelligence community.)

by Laura Snedeker

Looking forward to taking a peek at the intelligence budget? How about that report on the CIA’s secret prisons in Eastern Europe? I hope you’re willing to wait indefinitely, because one Republican senator – who, like our good friends in the clandestine services, prefers to remain anonymous – is holding up the Intelligence Authorization Bill.

The identity of the stubborn senator is a bit of a mystery in Washington. The Washington Post says, supposedly neither Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, nor vice-chairman Christopher Bond (R-MO) know for certain who might be single-handedly preventing the passage of such an important bill.

Congressional Quarterly outed Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) of the Foreign Relations Committee as the perpetrator, but the senator’s office declined to comment. The Post’s sources say that the bill is being held up over objections from the White House.

Why are our elected representatives allowed to invoke the cloak of anonymity to cover up their dubious actions? This country hasn’t reached the point where senators are whisked off the streets into black vans by the secret police, especially since the unidentified senator is allegedly doing the bidding of the White House!

Senators and other members of Congress are not journalists or private citizens or even blameless government appointees whose lives and careers would be jeopardized by identifying them as a source. Senator Anonymous is apparently taking a page out of Dick Cheney’s book. Like the venerable vice president, this senator owes his job to his constituents, and therefore owes them full disclosure of his actions in the Senate and an explanation for his behavior.

It’s fitting that a man who hides behind the curtain (like the electronic bugs in your living room) of senatorial privilege is blocking a bill that demands accountability from the intelligence community. At least he’s consistent.

It’s not much accountability, mind. Any organization that keeps secret torture prisons (in countries which were the sites of Soviet human rights abuses, no less) won’t think twice about withholding information from Congress (which frequently pays less attention to the actions of the CIA than the Transportation Security Administration employees at the airport pay to my purse). It’s a start, though.

Senator Anonymous clearly fears that if he stood up and accounted for his actions his constituents might revolt in anger in the next election and put someone in power who isn’t a lackey for the White House in the Senate. Of course, if the perpetrator’s identity is eventually confirmed, he’s going to have some ‘splainin to do anyway.

Every cloud has a silver lining (and probably a secret prison, but that’s beside the point): All the focus on the secret senator might translate into increased focus on the intelligence bill and why we desperately need to reform the intelligence community.

At the very least, if we can’t shine some light into the dark interrogation rooms of the CIA we can shine some into the closed offices of the Senate.

(Political graphic courtesy of Xark! and used with permission. As noted, Xark! is one of the blogs we heartily endorse.)

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Ron West said...

i HATE these secret holds. This is one reform I really wish congress would enact.

The substance to which you commented is also critical.


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