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Bioterrorism Affects Email

Written By: Mike Banks Valentine

At a time when critical issues of national importance are being
discussed in basement rooms at the 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 the
little critters).

I sent email to my representatives this week expressing concern
about how the 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 the final
bill does require judicial oversight and the bill was given a four
year sunset clause to end it in 2005. I expected the usual replies
from those officials in the 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 the local office
to express my feelings because . . . “As I’m sure you know, letters
containing anthrax have disrupted Congress by forcing the closure
of the 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 the closure of the
Senate office buildings, my staff and I have been unable to open
and process. Thousands of more letters are being held by the
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 the office emails and
continues to work from there. I know the 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 the 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.”

Swell, now they’re responding to email via snail mail! I prefer
the email Congressman. The present danger is not just to our
physical health from Anthrax, but more to the health of democracy
when policy makers are inaccessible to constituents. My concern
now is that they don’t seem to value email as an effective way to
communicate with the voting public. The average person in this
country now has four email addresses and can be reached at work,
at home and on the road via web-based email. This could be said
to compare to having multiple writing pads and pens at work, at
home and on the road.

While the famous “Carnivore” email intercepting technology sought
by the FBI will now easily track and monitor our correspondence
with Presidential approval, Congresspersons and Senators seem to
want to continue to communicate by snail mail when it makes even
less sense now to do so. Nevermind that email doesn’t cost nearly
as much as regular postal mail. My Congressman continued . . .

“Again, thank you for your e-mail message. I am privileged to
serve as your voice in Congress.” I want to know who is serving
as my EARS in Congress since email seems an unreliable method of
communication with representatives and regular mail is “being
held by the capitol police” as email goes unanswered but for
canned responses making excuses for lack of response and then
promising to send me expensive postal mail to answer my concerns.

We take email seriously (well except for silly urban myths and
endlessly-forwarded-cutesy-pass-it-on-absurdities) in that it is
a routine part of nearly everyones life now. Physical access
to government office buildings is blocked and communication by
snail mail is nearly impossible, while phone access is much more
cumbersome. It’s time our representatives began to take email
just a bit more seriously. It’d be nice if they answered it too.

Contact your own elected representatives:

http://www.house.gov
http://www.senate.gov
http://www.firstgov.gov

About the Author

Mike Valentine does Search Engine Placement for the Small
Business http://website101.com/Search_Engine_Positioning
WebSite101 “Reading List” Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet
Weekly Ezine emphasizing small business on the Internet
http://website101.com/arch/

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