ACLU Letter to Congress Outlining Its Legislative Priorities for the 110th Congress
Dear Member of Congress:
On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-partisan organization with over 550,000 members and activists and 53 affiliates nation-wide, we welcome you to the 110th Congress and urge you and your colleagues to restore and protect the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
In the coming year, we will ask you to take a number of steps to enhance freedom and fairness for everyone in America. Provided below are highlights of the actions that we would like you to take this year, and we offer our assistance in helping achieve these outcomes. We believe that by taking these actions, you and your colleagues will reassert the role of Congress as a check on the executive branch and ensure oversight of the president and the administration:
Restore habeas corpus.
Congress must conduct oversight hearings to expose the problems with the Military Commissions Act and enact legislation to restore habeas corpus, ban the use of coerced evidence, and limit the president's unfettered authority to define torture and abuse. It should also end the practice of extraordinary rendition and close the detention camps at Guantánamo Bay, instead of building a new $125 million dollar court complex there.
Investigate and stop warrantless spying.
Lawmakers must ensure vigorous oversight of the NSA program, reject any attempts to legalize warrantless wiretapping and instead pursue legislative options that would end this illegal program. They should also ensure that the FBI focuses its investigations on people suspected of crimes, rather than on law-abiding activists.
Better protect Americans' privacy.
Congress should fix the library records and National Security Letters provisions of the USA Patriot Act, block unwarranted data mining programs, and prohibit the formation of centralized databases containing personal information that are not subject to adequate privacy controls.
Investigate and stop torture, abuse and rendition.
Lawmakers should appoint a special counsel or create a congressional oversight committee to determine where the illegal policies originated in the chain-of-command and seek appropriate disciplinary action for those responsible.
Curb state secrets privilege and Sensitive Security Information.
Lawmakers should restore greater transparency by limiting the state secrets doctrine and the use of the Sensitive Security Information designation for unclassified material. Both have been used to hide embarrassing information from the public - exposure of which would not harm national security. Congress must also strengthen FOIA and protect whistleblowers.
This list is not exhaustive. We will continue our work on racial profiling, lesbian and gay rights, immigration, the Real ID Act, reproductive rights and protecting the First Amendment.
Congress has a duty to the American public to act as a check and balance on the executive branch. We are hopeful that you and your colleagues will live up to this obligation and rein in administration's abuses of power and protect our Constitution.
We look forward to working with you to restore the constitutional rights lost in recent years and ensure that all Americans are able to fully enjoy the rights and freedoms that are the hallmark of this great land.
Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director, ACLU
Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office