January 5, 2006

CONTACT: media@aclu.org

Answers Needed as Patriot Act Debate Continues, ACLU Says

NEW YORK -- As President George W. Bush continues to push for Patriot Act renewal, the American Civil Liberties Union ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times today criticizing the president for authorizing the National Security Agency to engage in illegal surveillance of Americans.

The ad, which is the third in a series, quotes the president's statement that the Patriot Act has clear safeguards to ensure that law enforcement officers need court approval to place a wiretap. The ACLU says such statements contradict President Bush's approval of warrantless spying on American citizens.

"President Bush has lied to the American public while secretly authorizing government agents to run roughshod over our civil liberties," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The president's own actions make it clear that we need additional checks on broad federal powers that threaten the freedom of innocent Americans."

The new ACLU ad quotes President Bush discussing the Patriot Act on June 9, 2005, stating that law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to engage in electronic surveillance of a suspected terrorist. But, in light of the president's repeated NSA authorizations, the ad asks, "Why did we bother debating the Patriot Act if President Bush could make up his own rules about spying on U.S. citizens?"

The advertisement, as well as similar ACLU ads that ran in December, compare the actions and words of President Bush and former President Nixon, both of whom denied allegations of illegal spying. The current ad highlights the concerns of John W. Dean, former legal counsel to Nixon: "In acting here without Congressional approval, Bush has underlined that his Presidency is unchecked -- in his and his attorneys’ view, utterly beyond the law. Now that he has turned the truly awesome powers of the NSA on Americans, what asserted powers will Bush use next?"

Today's advertisement follows reports that the Justice Department, rather than investigating the legality of the NSA surveillance, is seeking out individuals who disclosed information on the program. The ACLU has called for the appointment of an outside special counsel to determine whether oaths of office or federal laws were violated through the NSA program.

The previous ads and more information on the ACLU's call for an outside counsel are online at www.aclu.org/spyads

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