Three members of the Bush administration should do the honorable thing and resign their offices immediately. I'm talking about F.B.I. director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, Jim Nicholson.
All three evoke the ineffective "Brownie," former FEMA director Michael D. Brown, who was praised until his aura of competence was washed away with the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina.
I supported and still support the Patriot Act. I believed that when it was enacted and reenacted, it was a necessary tool in the war against Islamic terrorism. The most persuasive argument given in defense of the Patriot Act for me was the challenge of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to the ACLU to produce anyone whose rights had been violated by the U.S. government under the powers granted to it to collect information that would help our security agencies to protect us from terrorists.
The ACLU was unable to produce a single person who could prove that he or she had had their civil rights violated.
Now we have learned from a report by the Department of Justices' own Inspector General that the F.B.I. has misused the Patriot Act and violated the privacy of thousands of Americans who had no connection with terrorism.
A New York Times editorial this week demanded the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez for a variety of reasons, including the F.B.I. violations of the Patriot Act and misusing "powers it obtained under the Patriot Act to get financial, business and telephone records of Americans by issuing tens of thousands of 'national security letters,' a euphemism for warrants that are issued without any judicial review or avenue of appeal...The F.B.I. Director, Robert Mueller, admitted Friday that his agency had used the new powers improperly."
It is not enough under these circumstances where so many citizens of this country gave their support to the administration's request for the new power and authority for the U.S. government under the provisions of the Patriot Act to have those responsible for the program simply say they are sorry. If the government is invested with tremendous power to protect the country from international terrorism by eliminating some existing privacy protections afforded citizens from the prying eyes of the government, and those administrating and supporting the program fail in their responsibilities as both Mueller and Gonzalez have, they are obligated, under the standard of accountability the Army has displayed with regard to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, to resign and spare the president the embarrassment of firing them. If they won't he should immediately fire them.
In Japan, a comparable situation would result in immediate resignations and in earlier times, probably hari-kari.
The third person who should, if he were honorable, walk the plank, is Jim Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans' Affairs. His failures in supervising the medical treatment provided at the VA hospitals illustrate the most shameful action on the part of the federal government, even surpassing the monumental failure of FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The President inadequately tried to sum up his and the country's feelings with the comment, "My decisions have put our kids in harm's way and I'm concerned about he fact that when they come back, they don't get the full treatment they deserve." His lame response makes his decision to terminate Nicholson even more necessary.
Here, as in most situations, failure can justly be shared by the President, Congress and the Pentagon. They failed to provide the money and supervision needed to ensure that the returning members of our armed forces injured in Iraq received the best medical treatment and care for their wounds suffered in defense of the United States. Those soldiers were and are entitled not to minimum and adequate treatment, but to the best available anywhere. Instead, they received treatment that can only be described as it was at Congressional hearings as substandard and inadequate.
The person directly in charge of the VA hospitals, Jim Nicholson, has appeared on almost every national Sunday television program apologizing and promising changes. That is not enough. He should resign immediately. The President should find someone who has himself fought in Iraq, perhaps even been injured there, with the necessary management skills to take over Nicholson's job.
In the second-term of every administration, there are people who become burned out or whose incompetence is publicly revealed. It is the mark of a good administrator to timely fire incompetent people. If the President fails to fire these three, he will become directly responsible for their prior and continuing failures.