White House Belatedly Recognizes Congress’s Right to Oversee NSA; ACLU Says Real Checks and Balances Must Follow

May 17, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today urged lawmakers not to be appeased by the White House’s decision on Tuesday to finally provide both the House and Senate intelligence committees, as required by law, with classified briefings on the warrantless wiretapping and data-mining of Americans conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA), saying the move was only a first step toward restoring meaningful checks and balances.

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

“The White House’s recognition of Congress’s right and responsibility to conduct oversight on the NSA is a belated sign that the administration at least nominally acknowledges that our Constitution requires a system of checks and balances. The administration must now show that its shift is not just political appeasement to ease General Michael Hayden’s confirmation as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, but a genuine recognition of congressional authority. Lawmakers must be given full access to the facts and responsive answers from the administration regarding the NSA’s monitoring of Americans’ communications without court orders.

“Both the Constitution and federal laws give Congress oversight responsibility over the actions of the administration to help secure our civil liberties, including Americans’ fundamental right to privacy. It’s regrettable the administration refused for five months to brief all members of the intelligence committees, and this latest shift in the administration’s stance must be the beginning, not the end, of the oversight process. Closed-door briefings should not be used to thwart the members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from asking tough public questions of General Hayden, and he should provide the American public with answers. Our nation must be guided by the rule of law — we will continue to fight for the truth to be brought to light.”

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

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