WASHINGTON – In a story released today in USA Today it was revealed that the NSA has been collecting call information about millions of American residents and businesses served by Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth. One industry insider referred to it as the “largest database ever assembled in the world.” The American Civil Liberties Union strongly condemned the Bush administration’s most egregious abuse of power to date.
In April, ACLU leaders met with White House officials, asking for a review of whether federal agencies working to combat terrorism are targeting innocent citizens or other lawful residents. Today’s USA Today report confirms that this is the case, despite White House assurances that innocent Americans are not the target of electronic surveillance.
“Once again, it is clear that the president and the attorney general have lied to the American people,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The NSA spying program is not only focused on terrorists or international calls. The government is clearly tracking the calls and communications of millions of ordinary Americans and that's just plain wrong. This news serves only as further proof of how far we have slid into an abuse of power that undercuts the values Americans hold dear.
“Congress needs to analyze what intelligence is gathered, who is responsible for gathering it, and what actions will truly keep us safe,” Romero added. “We can no longer accept hollow, government assurances while they stubbornly refuse to answer questions about the NSA operations. These latest revelations should serve as further proof that this administration does not have satisfactory answers to these vital questions.”
The ACLU noted that there has never been a more urgent need to preserve fundamental privacy protections and our system of checks and balances than the need we face today. This latest transgression transcends the bounds of law and our most treasured values in the name of national security.
“Today's revelation about the NSA's data-mining program only further proves our point that Congress must fully investigate the Bush administration’s illegal NSA wire-tapping program,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This warrantless database violates the constitutionally protected privacy rights of all Americans. This latest revelation serves as a clear signal that the administration’s no-holds-barred approach to ignoring the law governing electronic surveillance has reached new levels. The ACLU has urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate NSA spying before attempting to legislate blindly on the issue.
“By law, members of Congress must be kept appraised of the nation's intelligence activities,” Fredrickson added. “The president cannot break the law, spy on Americans without warrants and systematically undermine our rights and freedoms. This abuse of power must not stand.”
For more on the ACLU’s
concerns with the warrantless NSA eavesdropping program, go to: