ACTION ALERTS: Don't Pardon Bush & Stop Torture
September 22, 2006
Friends National Committee on Legislation &
This week, the Senate will vote on whether to pardon George W. Bush for breaking the law by illegally wiretapping innocent Americans. You can sign a petition opposing this partisan move. Congress may be asked to vote in the next few days on legislation proposed by President Bush that would legalize the use of secret prisons and torture.
Congress Set to Pardon Bush's Law-breaking
This week, the Senate will vote on whether to pardon President Bush for breaking the law by illegally wiretapping innocent Americans. Can you sign the petition opposing the Republican move to pardon President Bush for breaking the law?
This week, the Senate is planning to quietly hold a vote that would pardon President Bush for breaking the law by illegally wiretapping innocent Americans without warrants. According to Senator Leahy, the bill would "...immunize officials who have violated federal law by authorizing such illegal activities." (1)
President Bush broke the law, and courts are starting to agree. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter once said the program was illegal "on its face." But he has now caved to pressure from Vice President Cheney, and introduced legislation that marks a new low: the bill justifies everything the president did. Worse, it makes it legal to wiretap Americans, in secret, without warrants or oversight, whenever the administration wants to. (2)
So far, Democrats and some Republicans are holding strong against the bill, and there are good chances to stop it if enough of us speak up. Can you sign the petition opposing the Republican move to pardon President Bush for breaking the law?
Many legal experts agree that the president's program to wiretap Americans who have nothing to do with terrorism violates the law. President Bush already has the authority to wiretap suspected terrorists—and we support that. In fact, his administration can tap anyone it likes as long as it gets an OK from a court a few days later.
Congress should be trying to hold him accountable — that's their job. Instead, some Republicans are trying to let President Bush off the hook completely. In fact, the legislation would give the president even more unchecked power.
Here are some quick facts about the Cheney-Specter bill:
• It allows President Bush — and every president after him — to wiretap Americans indefinitely, in secret, without a warrant and without any oversight. (3)
• It effectively pardons the president for any illegal behavior by forcing Congress to concede that he has the inherent authority to conduct the program (4) — something federal courts, numerous legal experts and many leading Republicans disagree with. (5)
• It completely guts FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) which has protected the privacy of Americans against illegal wiretaps for close to 30 years. (6)
• It prevents any legal challenges from taking place in the public court system. Instead, it moves all cases to a secret court, where only Bush administration officials can argue it. (7)
• It would help "immunize" any officials who broke the law in this program from being held accountable in the future. (8)
Since the program was exposed in December of last year, we've learned that President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the program, Vice President Cheney also personally intervened to stop telecom companies from testifying to Congress about it, and a federal court recently ruled the program unconstitutional. (9)
In an effort to protect himself from further consequences, the president is pressuring Congress to let him off the hook.
This is an important issue and it will help remind Americans, in an election year, what Republicans are all about — accumulating power for themselves, and trampling the system of checks and balances designed to stop that. Can you sign the petition today?
It's the Senate's job to act as a check on the president's power. If they can't do it, they shouldn't be in Washington.
1. "Today's Republican circus trick: Legislating in the Dark," Senator Leahy, provided by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, September 13, 2006
"NSA Whitewash Passes Judiciary Committee on Party-Line Vote," People for the American Way, September 13, 2006
2. "NSA Whitewash Passes Judiciary Committee on Party-Line Vote," People for the American Way, September 13, 2006
3. "Top 5 things Sen. Specter won't tell you about the Cheney-Specter bill," ACLU
4. ACLU Letter to the Senate Regarding Strong Opposition to the Substitute Version of S. 2453, the "National Security Surveillance Act of 2006" May 16, 2006
**Note: The bill has changed slightly from when this letter was written, however the sections accepting the president's claim of inherent authority remains
5."Judge Rules Against Wiretaps," Washington Post, August 18, 2005
"On NSA Spying: A Letter to Congress," New York Review of Books, February 9, 2006
McCain: Bush Does Not Have "The Legal Authority To Engage In These Warrantless Wiretaps," ThinkProgress, January 22, 2006
6. "Top 5 things Sen. Specter won't tell you about the Cheney-Specter bill," ACLU
7. "NSA Bill Performs a Patriot Act," Wire News, September 13, 2006
8. "Today's Republican circus trick: Legislating in the Dark," Senator Leahy, provided by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, September 13, 2006
9. ACLU Slams Senate Judiciary Committee Approval of NSA Spying Bills, ACLU, September 13, 2006
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The Senate Can Stop Torture
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Congress is in a bind. Many members of Congress are opposed to any legislation that would condone torture, secret prisons, or other programs that would undermine US security, and violate the moral principles on which this nation was founded. But member of Congress are under pressure because the president is arguing that these techniques are necessary for the defense of the United States.
Hearing from their constituents now could help them resolve this dilemma and do the right thing. Please contact your senators today to let them know you oppose brutal, inhuman and degrading treatment and secret prisons.
Congress may be asked to vote in the next few days on legislation proposed by President Bush that would legalize the use of secret prisons and torture (what he calls an "alternative set of interrogation procedures").
The president argues he needs this capability to extract intelligence information that could prevent new attacks on the United States and that he says needs this legislation to be passed before Congress adjourns at the end of September for the election campaign season.
Senators from both major political parties, former government officials, and retired military leaders have been encouraging Congress not to rush to pass legislation. "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism," warns former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
He joins other former military leaders, several groups of retired judges, and Senators John McCain (AZ), John Warner (VA), and Lindsey Graham (SC) in stating that Congress should not undermine the internationally accepted standards for treatment of prisoners articulated in the Geneva Conventions.
Among those who have stated their moral opposition to Bush's proposal are:
• Nine Federal Judges
• Retired Military Leaders
• Gen. John Vessey (Ret.)
• And Colin Powell, who wrote on September 13:
"The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Convention] would add to those doubts.
Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk."
Read the statements here.
This debate is not abstract. The president is asking for permission to hold "disappeared" prisoners in secret locations, without access to the International Red Cross, the nonpartisan international organization that monitors the treatment of prisoners worldwide.
He wants the CIA to have permission to handcuff prisoners in uncomfortable standing positions for up to 40 hours, to induce hypothermia by putting prisoners in cold cells and dousing them with water, by frightening them with attack dogs and near drowning experiences, and by using a series of other torture techniques.
Civilized nations agree that these techniques are immoral and according to military leaders they don’t lead to useful (accurate) intelligence information.
Take Action: Torture is Not Acceptable, Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere
• Write your senators today to urge them to resist any rush toward approving the president’s proposal and to speak out against torture and secret prisons. Congress to reject the president's proposals and consider carefully any changes to existing law governing treatment of U.S. detainees.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
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