Thank you for contacting me regarding your support for introducing articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome your input.
I share your concern about the policies and actions of Vice President Cheney and I am deeply troubled by the potentially precedent-setting expansion of executive power at the cost of our system of coequal branches and the civil liberties guaranteed to all Americans. The Executive Branch is an extraordinarily powerful one; in order for the checks and balances to function properly, both Congress and the Courts must resist an excessive assertion of executive power that is at odds with the interests of the American people or violates the Constitution. Despite the challenges that our nation faces, we must not cast aside the values and ideals that our people have defended for centuries.
The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution with the intention that no one branch of government should become too powerful. With the oppression of monarchical rule only recently behind them, they sought to prevent the rise of a too-powerful executive by crafting a calibrated system of checks and balances that allows for interplay between the three branches of government. Congress has an important legislative function, but it has an equally vital role in providing oversight and we must continue to aggressively exercise this prerogative.
One of the most important areas in which oversight has been lacking involves the terrible mistakes that have been made in the prosecution of the war and the reconstruction of Iraq . After more than 4 years of bloody combat; after our Nation has lost more than 3,700 of our military's finest; after thousands more of our brave men and women have been wounded; after we have spent almost $600 billion; and after finding no weapons of mass destruction, the very basis of that war, it is clear that no one in the Administration has been held accountable. This is beginning to change, and the new Democratic Congress has held an unprecedented number of oversight hearings since it took power. It is my hope that these oversight hearings will provide the basis for a dramatic change in direction in our Iraq policy.
Another area which cries out for strong Congressional oversight and action involves the revelation that the executive secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans on American soil. On May 11, 2007, the House of Representatives responded to the President's assertion of inherent authority to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant or any judicial review. By a vote of 245-178, the House adopted an amendment that I offered with my colleague Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to reiterate that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) provides the exclusive authority to engage in domestic electronic surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence information. T he President and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) recently returned to Congress with a legislative proposal ( S . 1927) that would make it easier for the NSA to collect intelligence on Americans and groups abroad. I strongly opposed this bill, which nonetheless passed the Congress and was signed into law on August 5, 2007. This measure is set to expire in six months, and I will be working hard to reinstate the type of court supervision that is essential to protect our privacy.
I continue to believe that we must be aggressive in combating terrorism and offer terrorists no quarter. However, the suggestion of the Administration that we can only do so by subverting the law and giving up our constitutional rights is seriously misguided. Instead, I support a different approach. We will use every tool to go after those who wish to harm us. But Americans who are law-abiding citizens of this country should have the confidence of knowing that a court is overseeing what the government does when it comes to our privacy rights.
On the specific remedy of impeachment, the Founding Fathers established a high standard requiring the determination of high crimes and misdemeanors. After witnessing the misguided, destructive and polarizing impeachment of President Clinton, I can well understand why they raised the bar so high. There is no question that the Vice President has done a great disservice to the country in many ways, and I am deeply troubled by his views of executive authority and performance in office. We must continue to do vigorous oversight and let the evidence lead us where it may; at the same time, we must not be deterred from the highest imperative of changing our Iraq policy, reversing the Administration's intrusive surveillance policy, meeting the challenge of global climate change, and other critical priorities.
Please be assured that I will do my part to ensure that Congress provides such a check and ensure that the Administration is held accountable for its actions.
Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress