Blog of Rights


Congress Has Left the Building!

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 2:27am
The president won't get a blank check on illegal spying today. The Senate just adjourned and now both houses are in recess until 11/9--they'll come in that day for bills to be introduced, but there will be no votes that day. The Senate returns for votes starting at 2 p.m. on 11/13 for the "lame duck" session. The Senate did NOT vote on the NSA bill (Frist or Wilson). They passed several conference reports which we believe did not include any bad warrantless wiretapping authorization or immunization provisions. Thanks to you!! Thanks to all of your efforts!! This is a major victory, especially with the election so close and so much political pressure to push these bad ideas into law. Together, we've managed to hold off passage of legislation that would give the administration a blank check and a free pass on warrantless NSA spying on Americans. The president's illegal wiretapping continues, but the law has not been changed to legalize warrantless spying on ordinary Americans. The country is indeed better off with the status quo than with legislation that would whitewash and ratify this spying. As you know, the president already has ample legal authorities to track and wiretap suspected terrorists--what he and no president should have is the power to unilaterally, secretly, and indefinitely wiretap Americans without court oversight of individual warrants to safeguard our fundamental rights to privacy, liberty and due process of law. It has been a pitched battle, but today we have prevailed! And Congress has left town without gutting the statutory protections that preserve our Fourth Amendment rights. The vote on the Wilson bill was closer than on the Patriot Act reauthorization, and friends of the Fourth Amendment in Congress have resisted efforts to make these NSA bills into law this week. We're seeing a growing recognition of the need for checks and balances, and now we must build on that. We have work to do later next week and in October before Congress's lame duck session to make sure people understand what blank checks the White House-Wilson and Frist bills are. But for now we should savor this. And rest. With deepest gratitude, Lisa

NSA Pre-Recess Endgame on the Hill

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 2:45pm
Many thanks to everyone in the coalition who has been working so hard against the White House-Wilson bill. Last night our bipartisan allies in the House spoke out in defense of the Fourth Amendment with passion and strength. The majority denied any…

Report from the September 7 Senate Judiciary Committee Mark-Up

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 3:42pm
On Thursday, September 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to mark up the Cheney-Specter bill, S. 2453. Instead of showing any desire to reassert their constitutionally established powers to hold the executive branch accountable to the rule of law,…

A Terrible Bill, A Temporary Sigh of Relief

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 5:35pm
Memo from D.C., by Lisa Graves, Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has attracted some good press for his saber rattling on President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, but behind the headlines…

Disappointed, But Undaunted

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 5:09pm
We're obviously disappointed with today's vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act without common sense reforms to ensure that anti-terrorism resources are focused on agents of al Qaeda, and not used to invade the private financial, medical, library and internet…

Cloudy, With a Chance of Amendments

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 6:37pm
As the uproar grows over illegal spying, and now over port security, the fractious Patriot Act debate still hangs over Congress. Congress is now on the brink of voting to reauthorize and expand the Patriot Act, which would make secret searches of Americans'…

Good NSA Scandal Resource

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 9:42am
The Center for Democracy & Technology, one of the ACLU's coalition partners in the Patriot Act reform effort and other national security issues, has created a very handy resource page with hot documents on the NSA spying scandal. Not only can…

Name-Calling by the White House?

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 11:37am
What a surprise. You just know this means we are making progress! McClellan was trying to spin the president's 2004 statement the same way Bush himself did over the weekend, claiming he was referring exclusively to "roving" wiretaps, which allow the…

No, Virginia, It's Not the Sunset Clause

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 10:05am
Representatives returned to Washington this week, for the White House Christmas party. One unintended effect of this winter tradition is that it often extends the session. Rather than wrap up legislative work and recess well before Thanksgiving, leaders…

Know the Difference Between Reform and Spin

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 7:54pm
As you know, some partisans in Congress were determined last week to steamroll through a bill to make most of the Patriot Act permanent and some of it even worse. Members of Congress and allies of reform were pressured into the wee hours of the night…
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