Bob Barr

When conducted with proper preparation, and in a focused and professional manner, oversight of executive branch actions can reveal serious shortcomings by government officials and help prevent recurrence; the “Waco hearings,” conducted over a two-week period in 1995, stand as an example of such an undertaking.

The impeachment hearings in 1997 conducted by the House Judiciary Committee under the able leadership of Chairman Henry Hyde, revealed to the country the recurrent obstruction of justice and pattern perjury engaged in by then-President Bill Clinton. These proceedings also presented, for the first time to the American people, the high quality of investigation conducted by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and his staff; and permitted the American people to see the professionalism and integrity with which Starr’s team carried out its task.

What made these proceedings so important and productive was that they were neither headline-driven nor one-shot deals. Instead, they focused on fundamental, systemic problems going to the heart of proper constitutional responsibilities of the President and the Executive Branch of government.

The times in which we now find ourselves -- with an Administration operating in secrecy, vastly expanding government power at every opportunity, and which is spending the country into the poor house -- call for equally aggressive oversight.

The purchase of 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition is far from the only question the Obama administration is refusing to answer. We still have no clear idea on the events that led to the assassination of a U.S. ambassador (and the deaths of three other Americans) during the September 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Nor do we know details about the President’s pet drone program; and, let’s not forget about “Operation Fast and Furious.”

With transparency like this, it’s no surprise administration officials have become targets of hacking from rogue Internet activists like Anonymous and WikiLeaks. Just as the rise of black markets follow a breakdown of free trade that force economies underground, so does the breakdown of transparency in the federal government lead to a “black market” demand for information; now apparently being met by these illegal hacking attacks. Clearly, such attacks should be neither condoned nor ignored. However, the attacks are a warning sign to members of Congress that the public is not satisfied with their heretofore feeble attempts to hold the Executive Branch accountable.

It is high time for some congressional oversight backbone.

Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.