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Ramping Up an Historic Challenge

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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January 17, 2006

Major news today. The ACLU filed the first lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s warrantless NSA surveillance, on behalf of a number of prominent journalists, writers, scholars and advocacy groups who would be logical targets of unfettered domestic eavesdropping by the NSA. Plaintiff James Bamford, for instance, has written two prominent tell-all books on the National Security Agency and the history of American signals intelligence and cryptography.

As Executive Director Anthony Romero says in the ACLU’s news release:

President Bush may believe he can authorize spying on Americans without judicial or Congressional approval, but this program is illegal and we intend to put a stop to it. The current surveillance of Americans is a chilling assertion of presidential power that has not been seen since the days of Richard Nixon.

Also, with the Alito hearing over, Congress looks set to turn its attention to the NSA surveillance scandal. Senator Specter, in particular, has promised hearings, but appears to be predicting leniency in consequences.

Here’s what Specter said on ABC’s This Week: “I’m not suggesting remotely that there’s any basis [for impeachment]. After impeachment, you could have a criminal prosecution, but the principal remedy, George, under our society is to pay a political price.”

Finally, The Times set the mood for the hearings today with more leaks from:

… [m]ore than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.