The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Thursday, May 11, 2006

10th District Candidate Calls for More Congressional Oversight; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — Thursday’s USA Today story that the National Security Agency is working to compile a database of phone records on hundreds of millions of Americans is further proof that it’s time for change in Washington, according to a Democratic congressional candidate.

Judy Feder, the dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, was in Frederick County on Thursday to talk to area Democrats.

“Security is a very important concern, but so is people’s privacy,” said Feder, speaking with reporters before the meet-and-greet.

According to the USA Today story, three major telecommunications companies — AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth — have voluntarily given basic information about all their domestic phone calls to the National Security Agency.

Both of the Northern Shenandoah Valley’s incumbent congressmen, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th, and Feder’s opponent, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, said they hadn’t heard of the program until Thursday and wanted more information about it.

“The fact that [Wolf] hasn’t heard about it is a serious problem,” Feder said. “The information on the activities of the National Security Agency has been coming out in dribs and drabs. We need to have full disclosure of what’s taking place.”

The public is far more likely to find out about controversial government surveillance — such as the recently disclosed warrantless wiretaps conducted on overseas calls by the spy agency — from media reports than from legislative hearings, she said.

“Oversight is not being handled properly,” Feder said. “Congress needs to be on top of this, and I don’t think that they have been. I do think we need more aggressive leadership in that regard.”

For his part, Wolf said Thursday that he had made calls to the Justice Department to find out what was going on, but they hadn’t been returned when he spoke with reporters.

Legislators need to get answers, Feder said.

“Congress needs to get that information in order to hold the [Bush] administration accountable,” she said.

Winchester, Frederick and Clarke counties have been Republican country for some time, but Feder said she’s optimistic that voters are shifting their preferences based on government performance.

“We have evidence in recent electoral history that people want change,” she said, including surprising Democratic success by Gov. Tim Kaine and General Assembly candidates in places like Loudoun County — once reliable GOP strongholds.

“People who were focusing on ideological battles rather than on people’s daily concerns were replaced,” she said.

Frederick County, the largest of the western GOP strongholds in the district, hasn’t gone blue in any recent elections, but that’s no reason to stay on the far side of the Blue Ridge, Feder said.

“I care about running in all parts of the district and serving all parts of the district,” she said.
“We need to get our message out and we will. From one end of the district to the other,” she said.