President Bush Continues Offensive on Patriot Act, NSA Spying; ACLU Says Constitution and Rule of Law Must be Respected and Maintained

December 19, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today renewed its call on President Bush to respect and preserve both the Constitution and the rule of law as the White House continued its offensive on both the Patriot Act reauthorization and its reaction to recent revelations that the National Security Agency, under direct orders from the president, engages in the warrantless wiretapping of people in the United States.

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

“It’s ironic that the President is heralding the progress of the Iraqi Constitution when he continues to undermine the Constitution here at home. President Bush’s decision to spy on Americans without judicial oversight was plainly illegal. The administration’s claim that Congress authorized warrantless wiretaps when it approved the use of military force after 9/11 is strained and unpersuasive. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force resolution says nothing about spying on Americans, and certainly does not repeal laws that have prohibited the government from spying on Americans without a court warrant for more than 25 years. The intelligence officers who reportedly refused to participate in the program because they thought it was illegal clearly did not believe that Congress had authorized it. Nor did Congress, apparently, based on its reaction over the past few days.

“When President Carter signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, he expressly noted the fact that it requires ‘a prior judicial warrant for all electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purposes in the United States when an American’s communication might be intercepted.’ The law is clear – the surveillance of American targets requires the approval of a judge. Once again, the administration has treated the war on terror as a blank check to do whatever it wants without regard to the system of checks and balances that are designed to protect civil liberties in this country. The rule of law applies to all – even the president.

“And on reauthorization of the Patriot Act, Congress could easily adopt the consensus position – the Senate-passed bill – that both ensures our security and protects our civil liberties. But it is the unwillingness of the White House and its allies to allow more time to protect civil liberties that has lead to the impasse facing the renewal of that law. Lawmakers still have the ability to renew that law with the commonsense modifications to protect the privacy of ordinary, innocent Americans.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to:

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