Workshop extends beyond items on agenda
by Clay Neely
During a morning Social Security workshop in Newnan Thursday, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, Ga. Third District, fielded additional questions from curious constituents that were not directly related to the government program for seniors. The topic of Benghazi was one of the first questions posed to Westmoreland, specifically in regards to the appointment of a special prosecutor for the case.
“I don’t think we will see one,” Westmoreland responded. “You have to understand that we don’t have the ability to have a special prosecutor – that would have to come from the Department of Justice and I don’t know if they’ll ever do that.”
As chairman of the investigative oversight arm of the intelligence committee in the U.S. House, Westmoreland has assembled a variety of veterans, representatives, and members of the armed forces to examine all the documents and the testimony surrounding the Benghazi attack.
“We have broken the investigation into three parts: the pre-attack, the attack and what happened post-attack,” Westmoreland said. “The fact that we’re doing that, we will come up with some conclusion and give that to the speaker and it will be up to him to come up with a special prosecutor. There are still a lot of unanswered questions.”
Another constituent inquired of the congressman, “Is the NSA spying on citizens?”
“It comes down to the metadata,” said Westmoreland. “Cell-phone providers keep their business records for different length of time. The government keeps the metadata for five years so they can go deeper into the information. If we caught a bad guy with a phone and wanted to know who he was talking to, you would take that number and they could automatically access it.
“All the information they (NSA) have is a phone number – no name, no address, no Social Security number, and no zip code – strictly a number. If they want to find out who owned that phone, they would have to go to court,” Westmoreland said. “If they had a number that had been called multiple times, they would have to go back to court in order to get that information as well.”
According to Westmoreland, members of the House are currently trying to change the law so that the NSA would not keep metadata, but the phone companies would.
“We wouldn’t be able to access it until we got the bad guy, and people don’t like that because they’d rather have it immediately instead of going to the carrier,” Westmoreland said.
“I know a lot people want to believe that they’re being listened to, but I don’t know of one case where anyone has ever been linked.” Westmoreland also addressed the growing concern over the lack of coal-produced electric power in the region, noting that rolling blackouts and brownouts are, in fact, a possibility.
“I’m not a doomsday guy but that’s what’s going to happen,” Westmoreland said. “We as Americans are used to having our lights and water functioning flawlessly. When those things don’t work, people panic. Electricity is going to keep getting more and more expensive because of renewable fuels. Natural gas is as low as it’s been in years, so the power companies are having a hard time deciding on whether to convert or to stay with coal.”
Currently, Westmoreland believes that if the price of natural gas goes up, everything else will skyrocket. But he noted that the House has passed a number of bills in order to prevent this type of overregulation.
“While I agree we will probably see some of these rolling brownouts and blackouts, unfortunately, that’s what it will take to get people’s attention.”