Our Government and Torture


The last time I personally delivered a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minneapolis, I almost got arrested. I have learned my lesson. This time I would submit our group’s letter via email to our local U.S. Attorney, B. Todd Jones.

So I went to the site for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota and found the following on the “Contact Us” link: “This form should only be used to submit comments concerning the content and appearance of the District of Minnesota website.”

Well, my only comment “concerning the content and appearance” of the website was that I had no comment concerning the content and appearance of the website. Was this the open and accessible government I heard would result from the 2008 election?

I checked the United States Attorney General’s website. Comments could indeed be submitted there, so maybe I just hadn’t found the right page for his Minnesota counterpart.

Surely my Congressman could help. He’d know an email address where I could send this letter. I left a message, and after I came back from a walk, Betty from Congressman Ellison’s office had left me a return message. She told me she didn’t know what website I had gone to, but just go on the U.S. Attorney’s website and there’s a box in which to put my message. I called her back, and she went on her computer and read the same thing I had read previously. “Oh,” she said. No email.

Strike one.

So I called Senator Franken’s office. After all, he was on the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the Justice Department, which employs Mr. Jones. After returning from an errand, I had a message from the Senator’s D.C. office. Michelle said she had a solution to my problem. I was impressed; this had gone all the way to D.C. I called the D.C. office. Michelle had no solution.

Strike Two.

Then I got a call from Mike in Congressman Ellison’s office. He told me if I called the U.S. Attorney’s office, they would give me an email address where I could send our letter. I called, talked to a live person, asked for the email address that Mike said was waiting for me there, and I got transferred to the same voicemail I had reached previously. No email address.

Strike three.

But I wasn’t out yet. Lucky me, I had two Senators on the Judiciary Committee. So I called Senator Klobuchar’s office. A staffperson told me they would contact the U.S. Attorney’s office for me, but in order to do that, the Senator’s office policy is that they had to give a constituent’s name. I gave her my name, and she told me they would send me a form for me to fill out and return, which would waive my privacy rights.

I should have quit at strike three.

Our letter will be given to the much-beleaguered United States Postal Service for delivery later this week. Oh yes, the topic of that letter? Torture.

(The sequence of these communications has been changed for dramatic effect, but regrettably the incidents are totally true.)