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Harman's responsibility

August 01, 2009

Re "What the CIA didn't say," Opinion, July 25

I agree with Rep. Jane Harman that "bipartisan oversight by Congress to assure that the laws we pass are faithfully executed is an indispensable part of [the] equation."

However, she can't escape censure for being told "only what the briefers wanted to tell us." As a lawyer by training, Harman knows that members of an oversight committee are duty-bound to ask as many questions as necessary to assure Americans of the faithful execution of laws. It sounds as if she just sat and listened. That's not what we elect our representatives to do.

Mickey Oskey Marina del Rey

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Harman's defense of her actions -- or more precisely, inaction -- falls far short of what we should expect of our elected representatives.

She describes being briefed quarterly by officials of the CIA on at least one program involving domestic surveillance. As we know now, other highly dubious practices justified in the name of national security were also presented in these briefings.

But despite the questionable constitutional validity of the surveillance program she discusses, Harman asserts that "it did not occur to me that the program was operated wholly outside of the framework Congress created as the exclusive means to conduct such surveillance: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." It did not occur to her?

She writes of "the Orwellian solution conjured up by a small group in the Bush administration to shred our laws and Constitution," but she behaves now as if the knowledge of such executive hubris was out of her reach. Anyone reading beyond the headlines was aware of these matters.

Could she not have asked probing questions, raised basic constitutional issues, demanded to know more than what she was told? Yes.

Brad Parks

Santa Barbara

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Harman's Op-Ed article raises serious questions about her role in the dysfunctional oversight process.

In discussing CIA briefings on covert action programs, she cites briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program, an intelligence collection program administered by the National Security Agency. The fact is that Harman and others had adequate information on the TSP, as well as CIA secret prisons and "enhanced interrogation techniques," and should have raised serious questions at the White House.

She chose to do nothing about these illegal activities. Harman is part of the problem and not the solution when she ignores her constitutional oversight responsibilities.

Melvin A. Goodman

Bethesda, Md.

The writer is a former CIA analyst.

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