Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.


- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Your oaths, sirs

Take the risk, reveal the truth under the lies of your own bosses and your superiors, obey your oath to the Constitution, which every one of those officials took, not to the commander in chief, but to the Constitution of the United States.” - Daniel Ellsberg

This is the 35th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers. Amazing story, and one every American should know and understand.

After the New York Times had printed some of the document, and the Washington Post still more of it; Ellsberg made sure a copy got into the hands of Senator Mike Gravel:

Gravel recalled the exchange, which he set up at midnight outside the storied Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.: “I used to work in intelligence; I know how to do these things.” Gravel pulled his car up to Bagdikian’s, the two opened their trunks and Gravel heaved the boxes personally, worried that only he could claim senatorial immunity should they get caught with the leaked documents. His staff aides were posted as lookouts around the block.

Thwarted in his attempt to read the Pentagon Papers into the public record as a filibuster to block the renewal of the draft, Gravel called a late-night meeting of the obscure Subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds, which he chaired, and began reading the papers aloud there. He broke down crying while reading the details of Vietnamese civilian deaths. Because he had begun the reading, he was legally able to enter all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, once top-secret, into the public record.

Though ridiculed by the press for his emotional display, Gravel was undaunted. He wanted the Pentagon Papers published as a book so Americans could read what had been done in their name. Only Beacon Press accepted the challenge.

Robert West, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association at the time, approved the publication. With that decision, he said, “We started down a path that led through two and a half years of government intimidation, harassment and threat of criminal punishment.” As Beacon weathered subpoenas, FBI investigations of its bank accounts and other chilling probes, Gravel attempted to extend his senatorial immunity to the publisher. The bid failed in the U.S Supreme Court (the first time that the U.S. Senate appeared before the court), but not without a strongly worded dissent from Justice William O. Douglas: “In light of the command of the First Amendment we have no choice but to rule that here government, not the press, is lawless.”


Another thing Americans should understand when speaking to their congressmen about our constitutional rights as American citizens: these representatives all swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.

As we read about Cheney's abuses of power in the Washington Post series, and a scathing call for impeachment from conservative Bruce Fein, it would be good for everyone to realize that we do have leverage. We have representatives who have sworn to uphold the Constitution -- not please any sitting president or vice.

As news of illegal behavior comes to light, they are legally bound to act. We must 'remind' them of this, if they are too faint of heart (or compromised by lobbyists) to remember on their own...

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