Saturday, March 18, 2006

Letter from Russ Feingold to the New York Times

To the Editor:

Re "Time for Facts, Not Resolutions" (editorial, March 17):

The president broke the law, and Congress must hold the president accountable.

You are right that the nation deserves to know more details about the National Security Agency's spying program, but there's nothing we could learn that would change the fact that by authorizing the program, the president broke the law.

Member of both parties who have concerns about the legality of the N.S.A.'s program, and there are quite a few, should not try to avoid that central issue while offering proposals to legalize the president's conduct.

I strongly support wiretapping terrorists to protect our national security, which current law allows.

The president needs to follow that law, or inform Congress of any reasons he thinks that law should be changed. He has a responsibility to obey the laws that Congress passes.

There must be no equivocation on that central tenet of our system of government.

I applauded Senator Harry Reid's effort to take the Senate into closed session to get answers on the intelligence and policy failures leading up to the Iraq war. But to suggest that such a maneuver is our only recourse now ignores the role the founders expected Congress to play when a president commits such a flagrant abuse of power.

We don't need a closed session to highlight the president's lawbreaking; we need an open debate and an expression of the Senate's judgment.

Members of Congress do need to "fulfill their sworn duty," as you suggest, and that means censuring a president who so plainly broke the law and violated the trust of the American people.

Russell Feingold
U.S. Senator from Wisconsin
Washington, March 17, 2006

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