Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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February 3, 2006

With the Patriot Act again extended for another five weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to conduct hearings on the president’s illegal domestic spying initiative at the NSA. The administration, however, is apparently denying requests for legal opinions drafted by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel on the constitutional and statutory basis for the spying.

Noteworthy in the above Times piece are statements by Senator Arlen Specter that the surveillance clearly violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and calls from Senator Chuck Schumer for subpoenas if the White House continues to stonewall.

The LA Times astutely picked apart the president’s State of the Union address, and questions, in particular, his factual assertions about the legal justification for the spying. Also check out the ACLU’s own no-spin zone, our “Spin of the Union” document, separating presidential spy-spin from the facts and the law.

A great column in the Boston Globe asks probing questions about the “ideological exclusion” provision in the Patriot Act, which allows the government to deny visas to non-citizens for statements that it contends support terrorism. The provision has been used against scholars and artists, but the most prominent of the excluded, and the subject of the Globe column, is Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim theologian who advocates a reformist vision of Islam.

Newsweek also had this fantastic assessment of the ideological divide among conservative lawyers in the Bush administration over the scope of presidential power. The players in this row are all key in the debate over the NSA surveillance and the torture of military detainees overseas.

William Arkin’s Post blog entry is an interesting tidbit about the NSA relocating certain operations to a suburb of Denver called Aurora (which already sounds vaguely cloak and dagger). That’s significant because both the CIA and the military proper have major facilities out there. The so-called NORTHCOM (Northern Command)–a military command with domestic responsibilities–is based out of Colorado.