Thomas Sowell

THE latest political spin is that we should shift our focus away from Congressman Gary Condit and concentrate on finding Chandra Levy. But what we really need to do -- and urgently -- is begin to shift our focus away from Chandra Levy and look much more closely and thoughtfully at Congressman Condit.

Realistically, after all this time, there is very little chance of finding Chandra Levy alive. Even finding her body becomes less and less likely, after massive searches have failed to turn up anything.

Whatever Gary Condit's past role in the life of Chandra Levy, he has a far more important -- and more dangerous -- present and future role in the Congress of the United States. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Condit has access to secrets that can jeopardize the lives of millions of Americans.

He is precisely the sort of person who is usually kept away from such secrets -- someone with his own guilty secrets, who is therefore susceptible to blackmail by those who want military information. That is why there are thorough background checks into people's personal lives before they are given access to top secret material -- unless they are members of Congress.

Although most Americans had never heard of Congressman Condit before Chandra Levy disappeared, those people who were in a position to know him were aware of his double life years ago. Back when he was a member of the California legislature, he had already acquired the nickname "Condom Condit."

This is not "all about sex." Espionage agents, whose business it is to find out whom they can blackmail, know that a sexual double life, such as Gary Condit has been leading, gives them leverage to pry loose government secrets. In the Congress of the United States, those are life and death secrets.

Another piece of political spin is that the voters in Congressman Condit's district should be the ones to decide whether or not he continues to be in the House of Representatives. But a security risk on the House Intelligence Committee affects far more lives than those in one Congressional district.

Even when there are no dangers of such magnitude, any society requires multiple safeguards against the many ways that human beings can go wrong and do harm. Laws and elections are not enough. There must also be a sense of moral norms and of public condemnation of those who violate them.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate