ACLU Urges Congress to Reject Attempts to Legitimize Illegal NSA Activities, Welcomes Harman-Conyers Bill to Restore the Rule of Law

May 17, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today renewed its call on lawmakers to reject any attempts to legitimize the warrantless wiretapping operation by the National Security Agency and insist on a full and through investigation into the program. The organization also welcomed a bill co-authored by Representatives Jane Harman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and John Conyers (D-MI), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, that would reinforce existing law requiring checks and balances on surveillance of Americans in this country.

“Congresswoman Harman and Congressman Conyers should be applauded for standing for freedom and rejecting pressures from the White House and fellow lawmakers,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Oversight is essential to the proper checks and balances that keep our government in line with the Constitution and it is vital that we not lose sight of them. The revelation of the illegal and expansive NSA programs to spy on Americans has left people in this country both outraged and frustrated. Congress must stand up to the president and insist that the Constitution and federal laws be followed by the president.”

The Harman-Conyers bill, H.R. 5371, the “Lawful Intelligence and Surveillance of Terrorists in an Emergency by NSA Act,” would underscore the requirement that the president follow the laws passed by Congress and protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. This bill, co-sponsored by 14 members of the House judiciary and intelligence committees, would also clarify that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Afghanistan does not authorize the illegal NSA spying programs that investigative reporters have uncovered.

The ACLU today also joined with its allies to call upon Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to reject any legislation that would legitimize the illegal actions taken by the NSA. Specter has drafted a bill that would retroactively authorize the president and NSA’s actions, expanding the executive branch’s powers and make judicial checks to protect innocent Americans optional.

“With the recent revelations that millions of Americans’ phone records have been, and are currently being, swept up in the NSA’s dragnet, now is the time for a thorough inquiry,” said Lisa Graves, Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. “Congress cannot and must not legislate on this issue without getting the facts. We cannot simply allow the executive branch to trample our laws only to be given a blank check that pardons the past and authorizes future unilateral spying by the administration.

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the NSA Spying, go to: www.aclu.org/nsaspying

To read the ACLU’s letter on the Harman-Conyers bill, go to: www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/25585leg20060517.html

To read the coalition letter to Senator Specter, go to: www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/25588leg20060517.html

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