The MoveOn.org Political Action Team – 2006-01-20 23:47:04
(January 20th, 2006) — As you probably saw in the news this morning, the Bush administration is facing growing backlash from across the political spectrum on its secret, allegedly illegal wiretapping program. Even conservative leaders like Grover Norquist are calling for investigations.(1)
Yesterday, the administration released yet another legal defense — but many of the arguments were already debunked by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. (2)
Breaking the law to spy on American citizens is a very serious abuse of power, but many members of Congress think people will let it slide. So we’re launching a petition that asks for a special prosecutor — like Patrick Fitzgerald — to find out the facts, and asks Congress to hold a real investigation into what happened. We’re also asking for protection for whistleblowers who come forward with evidence of wrongdoing.
Can you help us reach 250,000 signers before we deliver it at the Congressional hearings on President Bush’s wiretaps in early February? Just go to:
On Monday, former Vice President Al Gore gave a speech about the program, where he said: “What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law, repeatedly and persistently.”
We seldom send you speeches to read or watch, but this address is very important. It’s powerful, inspiring, and “reality-based.” At a time when politicians talk about balancing freedom and safety, Gore makes the case that open democracy and freedom are essential for security. You can watch, listen to, or read the speech here:
President Bush has admitted that he personally authorized thousands of apparently illegal wiretaps, (3) and he doesn’t plan to stop (4). In his address Al Gore asked, “If the president has the power to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can’t he do?”
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are outraged. Even the non-partisan Congressional Research Service released a report indicating that the White House program “conflicts with existing law.” (5) Republican Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter said he plans to look at the program closely at hearings in Congress next month. (6)
The Bush administration is in deep trouble on this—and they know it. As former Republican Congressman Bob Barr recently pointed out, the president had full Constitutional authority to legally spy on terrorists. We need to know why he chose to go around it. (7)
The more pressure we can add, the less Congress and the White House will be able to sweep this problem under the rug. Can you take a moment to sign our petition calling for a special prosecutor now?
No one disagrees that our government must be able to track terrorists. But as Sandra Day O’Connor recently wrote, “It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments . . . that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad.” (8)
P.S. If you want some more information on this issue, here’s a briefing on what the Bush administration has said—and what the truth is. As you can see, they’re pretty far apart on this issue.
They have claimed this unauthorized wiretap on phone calls and email was legal because of Congressional resolution.9
WRONG: Congress has passed no resolution allowing the president to ignore the 4th Amendment and spy on Americans.(10) Moreover, Congress explicitly denied this right to the administration.(11)
Then they claimed that they did it because they needed to act swiftly.(12)
WRONG: Current law allows immediate wiretaping, with up to three days after the tap to get the official court order. (13)
They claimed that Congress was fully briefed and knowledgeable on the program.(14)
WRONG: Only a handful of Congressional leaders were briefed on the program. Those who attended briefings were ordered to keep quiet about it.(15)
When Congressional leaders submitted concerns to Vice President Cheney’s office about the program, there was no response. (16)
Now, it also seems that the administration wasn’t forthcoming on major parts of the program.(17)
They argued that the administrative overhead is too high.(18)
WRONG: Too much ‘paperwork’ is not an excuse to break the laws of the land. If it did prove to be too difficult, the president could have sought to fix the law; after all, that’s what the Patriot Act is all about.
They said that the spying program was narrow and limited.(19)
WRONG: A New York Times article about the program reports that the data from the eavesdropping program was ‘swamping investigators.’ “The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month. But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.”(20)
The president said the person who leaked the spy program to the New York Times caused great harm to our security and now the Justice Department is involved in an investigation to discover their identity.(21)
WRONG: Anyone who brings illegal and unconstitutional activity to light is just doing their job—upholding the laws of the land. Our nation has a rich history of protecting whistleblowers—they are heroes who keep our democracy strong.
The administration is now attacking the Clinton-Gore White House by saying they also engaged in warrantless searches of Aldrich Ames’ home.
WRONG: The Clinton White House never violated the law in its searches. Warrants were not required for physical searches at that time, and Clinton supported and signed legislation changing the law to require warrants. (22)
• 1. “Leading Conservatives Call for Extensive Hearings on NSA Surveillance” US Newswire, January 17, 2006
• 2. “Legal Rationale by Justice Dept. on Spying Effort,” New York Times, January 20, 2006
• 3. “Bush: Secret wiretaps won’t stop,” CNN.com, December 20, 2005
• 4. “Official: Bush Authorized Spying Multiple Times,” Associated Press, December 16, 2005
• 5. “Report Rebuts Bush on Spying,” Washington Post, January 7, 2006
• 6. “Specter: Bush has no `Blank Check’ to Spy,” Chicago Tribune, January 16, 2006
• 7. The Situation Room, CNN, January 16, 2006
• 8. “Real Oversight on the War on Terrorism,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 2005
• 9. “Bush Administration’s Defense,” New York Newsday, December 20, 2005
• 10. “ACLU Letter to Attorney General Gonzales Requesting the Appointment of Outside Special Counsel,” ACLU, December 21, 2005
• 11. “Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in US,” Washington Post, December 23, 2005
• 12. “Bush Let U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” New York Times, December 16, 2005
• 13. “Bush Officials Claim Spy Court Cumbersome,” Baltimore Sun, December 20, 2005
• 14. “Cheney Roars Back on Spying, Torture, Iraq,” ABC News, December 18, 2005
• 15. “Surveillance Court Judge Quits in Protest,” Seattle Times, December 21, 2005
• 16. “Letter shows senator raised concerns in ’03,” Chicago Tribune, December 20, 2005
• 17. “Bush Vigorously Defends Domestic Spying,” CBS News, December 19, 2005
• 18. “Bush officials claim spy court cumbersome,” Baltimore Sun, December 20, 2005
• 19. Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, January 3, 2006
• 20. “Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends,” New York Times, January 17, 2006
• 21. “Bush Says Leaker Caused Great Harm,” MSNBC, January 1, 2006
• 22. “White House Lobs Accusations Back at Gore,” Associated Press, January 17, 2006
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