ACLU Welcomes Roberts' New Call For Oversight on Illegal NSA Program to Spy on Americans, Says Congress Still Needs to Fully and Openly Investigate Before Any Changes

February 18, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed an announcement from Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) that he now believes that the president’s domestic spying program must be subject to an independent judicial check. His announcement comes on the heels of a public backlash against word of an attempted backroom deal between Roberts and the White House to exempt the illegal spying by the National Security Agency from the federal statute that requires judicial review. That law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), was passed to protect Americans’ fundamental Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Senator Roberts has now indicated that he thinks the surveillance must be placed under the review of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Congress must ensure that any proposals to amend FISA protect Americans’ rights under the Fourth Amendment and continue to provide a role for thorough legislative oversight.

On Thursday, in a case joined by the ACLU, a federal court issued an order directing the Justice Department to turn over documents on the NSA’s illegal eavesdropping surveillance program or to provide a list of specific documents it is withholding. This Monday, the ACLU will host a national town hall on the warrantless domestic spying program.

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

“We applaud Chairman Roberts for finally recognizing that this warrantless eavesdropping program cannot stand. It is clear that a growing number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle reject President Bush’s claim of unchecked authority to spy on Americans without a warrant. But even though we welcome this development, any legislative proposals must not be allowed to short-circuit an inquiry into the warrantless wiretapping of Americans — Congress cannot fix the problems with the illegal operation until it knows exactly what has happened. A full, open and independent investigation is still needed. The rule of law, which was clearly broken, must be restored.”

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

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