Senate Judiciary Committee Delays Consideration of NSA Spying Bills; Move Follows House Failure to Rein in Warrantless Eavesdropping Program

April 27, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee today delayed consideration of several bills concerning the warrantless domestic surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed that step and continued to urge members of that panel to reject attempts to legislate on the issue without a full investigation into the illegal program.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director:

"We applaud the Senate Judiciary Committee for rejecting an attempt to legislate in the dark on the warrantless spying on Americans by the NSA. We hope that this hesitation will be accompanied by a true assertion of Congress’s right and obligation to provide oversight of the executive branch. Too many questions remain unanswered about the NSA program.

"In particular, we welcome the statements of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who is also a member of the special subcommittee of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that has been briefed on the NSA operation. She stated that nothing she has been told leads her to believe that the current NSA operation could not achieve the same goals if it were conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. She also forcefully pointed out that going ahead with this legislation would be like a physician diagnosing a patient without seeing either the patient or their medical records. We also commend Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) for proposing an amendment to withhold funding for the program in response to the stonewalling of the administration.

"Today’s meeting follows the disappointing actions taken by the House last night. In approving an intelligence authorization bill, the House failed to adopt a bipartisan measure, offered by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Jane Harman (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Their simple amendment would have required that all domestic surveillance of American residents comply with federal law, and would have required the reporting to Congress of the names of those surveilled.

"Congress needs to investigate, not rubber-stamp the president’s warrantless surveillance program. We hope that today’s actions will mean that the illegal NSA program to spy on Americans will be fully investigated. The American people are entitled to know how many of their phone calls and e-mails have been monitored by the NSA without any judicial check or congressional approval. Congress must serve as a check on the executive and affirm the belief that in America, no one is above the law, not even the president."

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the warrantless NSA eavesdropping program, go to: www.aclu.org/nsaspying

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