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ACLU Asks Next President to Investigate NSA Wiretapping and Release Documents

Caroline Fredrickson,
Washington Legislative Office
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June 30, 2008

The legislative battle over gutting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will resume in the Senate in Washington on July 8.

Without a dramatic turnaround, it appears we will lose this important fight in the Senate over the gutting of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Amendments, including the one likely offered by Senators Dodd and Feingold to strip immunity from the bill are a valiant attempt to improve the bill. However such amendments are not likely to stem the tide of what looks to be certain passage of an unconstitutional bill. Nor are they likely to stop a final bill that immunizes the telecommunications companies that broke the law.

While we greatly appreciate the valiant efforts of senators like Feingold and Dodd to improve the legislation – these efforts should not and will not provide political cover for any senator that says ‘yes’ to any bill with warrantless wiretapping or immunity for telecommunications companies that broke the law.

The pivotal vote is the one at the end, on July 8. On that day, Senators will make a crucial decision: whether or not to eviscerate American’s treasured right to privacy in our own homes and codify a Nixonian view on executive power that, “if a president does it, it is not illegal.”

The ACLU’s message to senators who may be considering a stand against immunity, then capitulating by voting for a bill with unconstitutional spying powers and immunity is this: a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to strip immunity out of the final bill is not a civil liberties fig leaf.

Although we will urge senators to vote for amendments to improve the bill, the bottom line for the ACLU is that no president should have the power to monitor the phones and emails of Americans without a warrant, and telecommunications companies should not be let off the hook. No president should have the power to pardon companies that broke the law.

The ACLU calls on the next president to conduct an immediate investigation of warrantless wiretapping and calls on him to release documents relating to the legality of the NSA’s monitoring of American’s calls and email without warrants.

We urge senators to talk to their constituents about what the Fourth of July means to them. Think about liberty and abuse of power under the Bush administration.

We encourage members of the ACLU to contact their senators and explain that they want the government to get a warrant before monitoring their phone calls or their emails.

When the Senate returns from recess, we exhort senators to rely on the tried and true FISA, which has worked well for 30 years. If technical adjustments need to be made then let’s have a narrowly tailored bill not drafted by the telephone companies.

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