Jesse Jackson / Chicago Sun-Times – 2006-05-19 23:42:10
Time to Call Bush on Lawbreaking
Jesse Jackson / Chicago Sun-Times
(May 16, 2006 ) — The National Security Agency has created “the largest database ever” with the phone records of millions of Americans provided to the NSA by AT&T, Verizon and Bell South for a price. The NSA says it used the records to trace patterns — data mining — in the hunt for terrorists. The agency got neither warrants nor permission from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
As Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter admitted, the FISA law “has been violated.” But that’s not all that is violated.
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects the privacy and liberty of Americans. It says the government can’t search or seize you without a warrant issued on probable cause to believe you are involved in a crime. This right is the line between a democracy and a police state, where the state can search or seize at will. That is the line that the NSA program erased.
President Bush authorized the program and defends it.
“We are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans,” he said last week. How do we know? The court set up to provide warrants has been ignored. The law set up to regulate the system has been trampled. How do we know the president is telling the truth? Trust us, he says.
Trust the president who led us into Iraq on the basis of disinformation and misinformation? Trust the president who just weeks ago told us the NSA program involved only international calls with al-Qaida? The same president who said he’d fire anyone in the White House who helped leak the identity of Valerie Plame, the undercover CIA employee whose husband helped expose Bush’s lies about Iraq’s nuclear capacity?
Now, with Karl Rove in the center of the effort to discredit Wilson and out Plame, the president says he has no comment on a continuing criminal investigation.
This isn’t a routine Washington dustup.
This concerns the trampling of the Fourth Amendment by the government and the sale of our privacy by the phone companies.
And it isn’t an isolated case. Bush, along with Vice President Dick Cheney, who is the major force behind this thing, believes the president acts above the law in the war on terror. He claims the right to make war without a congressional declaration; to surveil Americans without warrant; to arrest us without probable cause; to hold us without a hearing; to deny us the right to counsel or even to hear the charges against us if the government decides, on the basis of evidence they need not produce, to tag us as accomplices in the war on terror.
Now most Americans would gladly sacrifice some of our liberties if it would increase our security against another Sept. 11.
Bush counts on that feeling when he acts above the law. But the entire fabric of our freedom is woven into a system of checks and balances.
Here, all the checks and balances have been tossed aside. Qwest, the only honorable phone company, refused to cooperate with the NSA in this program without a warrant or permission from the FISA Court. NSA refused to produce either; the FISA court was ignored. The NSA and the administration have simply refused to supply information to Congress, and the lame Republican Congress has refused to hold them accountable. When the Justice Department’s independent Office of Professional Responsibility opened an investigation on the lawyers who signed off the program, the White House refused to provide the secrecy clearances needed to have the investigation go forward. “Trust us,” the president says, and then he ensures that we have no choice but to trust him, since every legal check and balance is locked out.
It is time for accountability. Two public-interest lawyers have sued Verizon for $5 billion for violating the law, which should force the administration to defend the program before an independent court. Don’t hold your breath for this Congress to hold hearings. But Democrats should stand up and promise an in-depth series of investigations of this administration and its lawlessness — from Halliburton’s making off with billions in sole-source contracts to the cesspool of hidden prisons to the trampling of liberties at home.
We wage the war on al-Qaida terrorists in defense of our freedoms. We’d better make certain this administration isn’t shredding those freedoms along the way.
Copyright (c) The Sun-Times Company
Call Sen. Feinstein:
Oppose Hayden for top CIA Post
Last week USA Today reported that the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying program is, in fact, snooping into the records of millions of innocent Americans. (1)
This is a far cry from the “limited” wiretapping the president once claimed. And all this comes amid reports that the Bush administration may be using call data to identify journalists’ secret sources. (2)
Today, the architect of that illegal program, General Michael Hayden, is appearing before your senator, Sen. Feinstein, to begin the confirmation process for the top spot at the CIA.
It’s unacceptable for someone like Hayden, who led an illegal program, to be at the top of the CIA. Can you call Sen. Feinstein and tell her that you oppose Hayden’s nomination to the CIA?
• Senator Dianne Feinstein Phone: 202-224-3841
Naming Hayden to the top post at the CIA is like a promotion — it’s an incredibly powerful position. But Hayden is a man who has shown that he has contempt for the rule of law and our system of checks and balances. He doesn’t deserve a promotion. Consider these key facts:
• The spying program is an illegal dragnet that catches millions of innocent Americans. All along, President Bush has insisted that his domestic spying program was targeted only at suspected Al Qaeda terrorists.
Now it’s clear that the call details of tens of millions of Americans have been turned over to the government and that data has been stored in what one source said was the “largest database in the world.” (3)
• Republicans and Democrats are showing outrage. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the press, “the idea of collecting millions or thousands of phone numbers, how does that fit into following the enemy?”4 Some Republicans have even expressed opposition to Hayden’s nomination.5
Today’s hearing is the first of several confirmation hearings and it is critical that your senators know where you stand on this important issue. It is vital that they stand up now and stop Hayden from taking the top post at the CIA. Can you make a call today?
• Senator Dianne Feinstein Phone: 202-224-3841
–Eli, Nita, Tom, Rosalyn and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
• 1. “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls” USA Today, May 11, 2006 http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-05-10-nsa_x.htm
• 2. “Federal Source to ABC News: We know who you’re calling” ABC News Blog, May 15, 2006 http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/
• 3. “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls” USA Today, May 11, 2006 http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-05-10-nsa_x.htm
• 4. “Bush Doesn’t Confirm NSA Data Collection” Associated Press, May 11, 2006 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=1780&id=7697-642276-xlM2vzZ15IWj.PN3fDxeKg&t=2
• 5. “Congress to Help Hayden Keep Rank” Roll Call, May 18, 2006 [Subscription Required] http://www.rollcall.com/issues/51_125/news/13423-1.html
Support our member-driven organization: MoveOn.org Political Action is entirely funded by our 3.3 million members. We have no corporate contributors, no foundation grants, no money from unions. Our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way.