Thursday, February 01, 2007

The ACLU Confronts the National Security Agency

ACLU Confronts the National Security Agency

Dear Friend,

Yesterday, ACLU attorneys from our Michigan office and the national ACLU went head-to-head with the National Security Agency (NSA) over its illegal spying program. In a federal court room in Cincinnati, we argued that President Bush broke the law by authorizing the NSA to engage in warrantless surveillance of Americans.

The hearing was the next step in our ACLU v. NSA case in which a federal court ruled that the Bush administration’s program is unconstitutional and must be stopped. It’s up to each and every one of us to hold the president accountable and put an end to this disregard for the Constitution. Ask Congress to investigate the president and those responsible for authorizing and implementing the illegal surveillance.

Our lawsuit and pressure from the public and Congress are making a difference. Two weeks ago, the Bush administration-flip-flopping on its repeated claims that the NSA spy program is legal -- was forced to concede that the FISA court has a role in overseeing spying done by the NSA. Now that the FISA court is belatedly involved, the government is trying to get our case thrown out of court, because it claims the illegal spying has ended.

As Jim Bamford, one of our clients in this case, noted in an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times, “That’s a bit like a bank robber coming into court and arguing that, although he has been sticking up banks for the past half-decade, he has agreed to a temporary halt and therefore he shouldn’t be prosecuted.”

Because the president claims he has the “inherent authority” to violate the law at any time in the future, we argued yesterday that the appeals court must still rule on our case. Now the court must exercise its proper authority and require the president to follow the law. The inherent powers of the president do not include the ability to conduct an indefinite and unlimited domestic surveillance campaign.

Lawmakers are only beginning to assert necessary and long-delayed leadership on this issue, and fundamental questions remain unaddressed. How many Americans had their private conversations listened to over these past five years? What role did telecom and internet companies play? The administration thinks it can throw us a bone and we’ll go away but we won’t.

Those responsible must be held accountable. Our democracy requires intense constitutional and congressional scrutiny to ensure it endures. Congress must conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the NSA domestic spying program to uncover the truth about the illegal program. Ask Congress to investigate the president and those responsible.

You and the ACLU have been working so hard on this because you understand that this case is about more than putting an immediate end to the Bush administration's warrantless spying program; it is an important step in the battle to curb the Bush administration’s relentless disregard for the Constitution. Let’s be sure we keep the pressure on. Ask Congress to investigate the president and those responsible for authorizing and implementing the illegal surveillance.

Thank you for standing with us,

Kary L. Moss, Executive Director
ACLU of Michigan

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