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By Geoff Metcalf

August 4, 2002

He who dares not offend cannot be honest.
 -- Thomas Paine

The controversy over the FBI wanting to get members of the House and Senate to take lie detectors in their probe of intelligence leaks is a for real catch-22.

  • There IS a problem with real national security data being leaked.

  • There IS a problem with Congress investigating Congress (especially in the wake of their lousy capricious performance).

  • There IS a problem within the FBI.

What to do…what to do????

Abuse of power under the color of authority is and has been a very real problem.

What do you do when you can’t trust either Congress or the FBI to conduct fair, impartial investigations?

The problems are exacerbated by the very real constitutional and national security elements.

  • Constitutionally, the republic provided for three separate but equal branches of government.  The separation of powers was a brilliant concept even if we have mucked up the practice with partisanship and malfeasance.

  • National security (especially now in the post 9/11 arena) is a very real concern.  We cannot allow partisan differences to mitigate national security.

So how do we resolve mutually exclusive doctrines?

Congress (especially those with something to hide) is never going to voluntarily submit to lie detector tests. The leadership of BOTH parties have directed their caucuses not to play.   The FBI ‘could’ potentially target non-compliance to voluntary tests for more aggressive investigative action.

The law of unintended consequences:

Sen. Richard Shelby ranted to the Associated Press that the probe violates the government's separation of powers, he said. "You know the Senate and, I assume the House, has always investigated their own."

And THAT is part of the problem.  IF Congress had honestly, fairly, objectively, and fully “investigated their own” this would be a no- issue.  However, because historically Congress has routinely conducted white wash/cover ups and used internal investigations to develop political capital, we don’t trust them.  There I said it.

Sen. Chuck Hagel said, “…if you've got to go around and give your members of Congress polygraph tests, then we've got a more serious problem than just leaking sensitive information out. If we can't trust our nation's leadership with sensitive information, then we ought to go back and start all over again."

He is half right.  We DO have a more serious problem than leaking information.  However, we don’t need to “start all over again”.  All that is necessary is for Congress to do its job.  The Ethics Committee is a joke.  Just look at the inconsistent way they handled Traficant and Toricelli.  Toricelli survived with a slap on the wrist because he was a political asset to democrats.

When Sen. Tom Daschle, said he has "grave concerns about the congressional separation of powers issues raised by having one branch of government asking to polygraph employees of another branch," it is a fair and reasonable argument.  But, hey….they brought it on themselves.  It is an inevitable consequence of malfeasance.

What to do.

The FBI has already questioned all 37 members of the House and Senate intelligence committees AND reportedly grilled 60 congressional staff members and officials at the CIA, the Defense Department and the National Security Agency.

Last time I checked it was still a crime to lie to a federal agent.  Congressional immunity ends when they walk off the floor of Congress. 

It may take a little more legwork, but if or when ANYONE is found to have lied…and I mean ANYONE…Senator, Congressman, Federal Agent, or staff…INDICT the s.o.b. for perjury, fraud, conspiracy, and anything else they can throw at them.

Abuse of power under the color of authority IS a crime (notwithstanding the art form the previous administration fostered).

It was de Tocqueville who warned us of the one tragic flaw he saw in our new democracy.  It was that as time went on, would it be able to have the will to discipline itself from the pressures of elections, the pressure to stay elected mounting a burden on that constantly seeking of elections?

The sad answer is No!  Congress does not have the discipline.  Sadly, the FBI has lacked the discipline to eschew pressures either political or bureaucratic.  However, the system CAN work…if, and only if, the Congress and the FBI focus on WHAT is right or wrong rather than WHOM.

If a Bob Packward had to go because he was a boor, how do you justify keeping Ted Kennedy?  If Wilbur Mills had to go why not Gary Condit?

Last week I referenced Senator Patrick Leahy.  He was forced to resign a committee for leaking sensitive data.  Big whoop!  He should have been booted out of congress and sent to stony lonesome.

© 2002 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved

Geoff is a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers.  A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Metcalf has hosted his radio talk show on the ABC/Disney owned and operated KSFO and in worldwide syndication.