Elected officials who read the classified 28-page finding on foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers almost always become supporters of their release. That’s why we challenge and equip citizens to contact their representatives and senators and ask two simple, yes-or-no questions:
- Have you read the 28 pages?
- If not, have you asked permission from your intelligence committee to do so?
28-pages activists typically find the answer they receive isn’t really an answer at all. For example, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey recently replied to a constituent with a lengthy but canned reply clearly sent to anybody who even mentions 9/11. The senator spewed 407 words, but none of them were “yes” or “no.”
Florida Senator Bill Nelson, on the other hand, cut right to the non-bottom-line: He tersely thanked the writer for contacting him and said he’d keep her “views in mind if this issue is considered before the Senate.” Nelson’s reply also said the redacted pages were in the 9/11 Commission Report–they’re not. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey’s non-answer to yet another citizen featured the very same error.
You’re a Customer—Act Like One
When you get your own non-answer, don’t get discouraged. Instead, adopt the mindset of a customer who is receiving terrible service.
Imagine you asked a simple yes-or-no question of your bank, cable company or cell phone provider and received a reply that deliberately and completely ignored the substance of your query—and maybe threw in some factual errors to boot. What would you do? We’re guessing you’d do one of these things, in whatever order you felt like:
Ask the question again. One of those Pennsylvania constituents replied to Senator Toomey by saying, “You did not answer the simple yes or no questions I asked in my previous email.” He restated the questions and closed by saying “I look forward to your answers.”
Try another channel. If you started with a request through the official’s website, try a phone call. If you called first, try a letter. Show up at a town hall or election event and put them on the spot. Whatever your change-up, make sure they know this is your second (or third, or fourth, or…) inquiry and that the previous reply wasn’t satisfactory.
Ask to speak to a supervisor. Call the politician’s office. When the front-line staffer answers, politely but firmly say you need to talk to the legislative assistant who handles intelligence and national security matters because you’ve received poor service from the office on an issue relating to those areas. When you speak to that legislative assistant, tell them you’ve asked a simple yes-or-no question of fact and that, as a constituent, you deserve a yes-or-no answer.
Tell other people about your experience. Public criticism is to politicians what garlic is to vampires. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper telling them about your experience and asking aloud why a public servant would dodge such a simple question. Call in to a local talk radio show and do the same—you may intrigue the newspaper or radio station enough that they ask the politician the question too.
Expose their evasiveness on social media. Call them out using their Twitter handle or post a comment on their Facebook page. Post a copy of your question and their non-answer. Use a meme generator to add visual flair and encourage people to pass it on.
Don’t give up. It doesn’t take a lot of energy to keep following up, so make it a hobby. Keep a sense of humor about it and let each round of pathetic unresponsiveness compound your determination get a straight answer.
Before long, the time and energy staffers have to spend in creatively dodging your inquiry will inevitably have them asking the same question you are: “Why doesn’t our boss just read the 28 pages already?!”