At a time when critical issues of national importance are being discussed in basement rooms at US Capitol due to Anthrax laced letters sent to government offices, email has become more important than ever for person-to-person communications. Bioterrorism has now impacted even email. No worry that you'll get sick when you next check your email inbox since terrorists have not yet figured out how to send those powdery spores via email attachments (digitizing Anthrax spores seems to kill little critters).
I sent email to my representatives this week expressing concern about how Anti-Terrorism Bill signed by President Bush poses extensive threats to civil liberties. Even though it was routinely editorialized by major newspapers as going too far without usual protections against abuse by policing agencies, while final bill does require judicial oversight and bill was given a four year sunset clause to end it in 2005. I expected usual replies from those officials in form of canned "Thank-you-for-sharing your-thoughts-and-concerns" email. What I got back concerns me even more!
My Senator returned an email urging me to call local office to express my feelings because . . . "As I'm sure you know, letters containing anthrax have disrupted Congress by forcing closure of House and Senate office buildings. The Capitol, however, remains open and legislative work continues." What has that to do with email Senator?
The Senator goes on . . . "Currently I've received approximately 30,000 letters and emails which, because of closure of Senate office buildings, my staff and I have been unable to open and process. Thousands of more letters are being held by Capitol Police." Sorry Senator, that doesn't fly, it falls flat an excuse for access to email.
I have an old college buddy who works for another senator who tells me he's set up at home to retrieve office emails and continues to work from there. I know flow of email has not slowed due to Anthrax and it is now an even more reliable method to reach elected representatives, as it can be retrieved from anywhere.
How did my Congressperson respond? "This reply is not your final correspondence from me -- it's just an automatic acknowledgment that I have received your e-mail. I will send you a response through regular mail service that addresses your specific concern. However, in order to ensure that I can respond properly, I ask that you reply back with your full mailing address, including street address, city and zip code."