House Judiciary Committee Adopts Request for Illegal NSA Spying Documents; ACLU Welcomes Unexpected Move, Calls for Thorough Congressional Oversight
WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the House Judiciary Committee as that panel unexpectedly adopted a "resolution of inquiry" to formally seek any and all documents held by the president and attorney general relating to warrantless requests made by the National Security Agency and other Federal agencies to telephone service providers regarding the records of their customers’ calls.
"We applaud the House Judiciary Committee for adopting this resolution, and for asserting its oversight role," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This vote was a victory for the Constitution and our system of checks and balances. The administration must stop stonewalling Congress. The truth must be brought to light, and today’s vote is a reason for hope in that endeavor."
The House Judiciary Committee today approved, on a voice vote, House Resolution 819, offered by Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL). This "resolution of inquiry" requests the president -- and directs the attorney general - to submit all documents "relating to requests made without a warrant by the National Security Agency or other Federal departments and agencies to telephone service providers … for access to telephone communications records of persons in the United States" other than as authorized by federal electronic surveillance statutes.
The Judiciary Committee’s move comes on the heels of a 207 - 219 vote in the full House of Representatives last night narrowly rejecting an amendment that would have removed all funding for a related program in which thousands of Americans in the U.S. are eavesdropped upon by the NSA acting without a warrant. Twenty-three Republicans broke with the administration to back the amendment. Numerous experts believe the warrantless domestic spying program is illegal and unconstitutional, and that the telephone companies that turned over their customers’ calling records to the NSA violated their customers’ statutory privacy rights. .
"Americans deserve a government that is bound by the rule of law," said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The administration has stonewalled Congress about these programs, and today, the Judiciary Committee laid down a marker. We hope that today’s vote is but the first of many steps Congress will take to rein in this massive abuse of power."
To read the ACLU’s letter on the funding amendment, go to: www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/2html948leg20060620.html
For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the warrantless NSA spying program, go to: www.aclu.org/nsaspying