ACLU Condemns Secret White House Deal on Warrantless NSA Spying Program, Says Proposal Would Legitimize and Condone Illegal Activities

March 8, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today condemned an agreement announced by Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to support legislation to ratify the Bush administration’s warrantless National Security Agency program to spy on Americans, saying it would effect a whitewash of the program before getting the full facts about it. The specific details of this partisan deal, which was apparently struck between Vice President Dick Cheney and Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) joined by Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), remain unclear.

Reports indicate that the legislation would require the administration to report about the program to a smaller group of Senators than is required by current federal law. The legislation would also not require prompt judicial oversight of every single intelligence wiretap of Americans, substituting a pre-approved stamp of approval for real judicial review. The ACLU called this backroom approval of the illegal eavesdropping program a setback for the rule of law, and said a thorough investigation is still needed.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee has failed to exercise its responsibility to conduct a full and impartial inquiry into the illegal activities of the executive branch. The White House has continued to stonewall Congress, with the acquiescence of many members of the president’s party. The deal that has been announced would whitewash this illegal program. It would reward the president’s authorization of illegal warrantless spying by changing the law to permit wiretapping of Americans without any evidence that they are conspiring with al Qaeda and without requiring each wiretap to be promptly reviewed by the court. When the law has been broken, Congress should investigate, not provide an ex post facto escape hatch for illegal acts.

“This deal to legitimize spying on Americans without the real checks required by the Fourth Amendment comes on the 50th anniversary of the start of COINTELPRO, a cold war program to spy on Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. It is profoundly disappointing to see lawmakers willing to lower the bar to allow the president vast powers to spy on Americans.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the warrantless NSA spying program, go to:

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