NEW YORK - May 11 - The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it has received the
support of several members of Congress in the organization's ongoing lawsuit
challenging the National Security Agency's illegal domestic spying program. Led
by Congressman John Conyers, (D-MI), the group of 72 legislators filed a
friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the ACLU.
"Today's support from so
many leaders of our federal government shows that Americans will not tolerate
the government snooping into their calls and emails without court approval,"
said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU. "The American people
should be proud to be represented by lawmakers who are so determined to uphold
our most precious and basic values."
The brief signed by the congressional
members refuted, point-by-point, the arguments of legality made by the Bush
Administration. The legislators argue strongly that there is no evidence that
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court could not be effectively
employed in a post September 11 environment. The lawmakers also use the brief to
vehemently state that Congress by no means gave the administration carte blanche
to collect intelligence as Commander-in-Chief and that the program is "operating
against the express as well as the implied will of Congress."
Since 2001, the
NSA has been secretly intercepting the phone and e-mail communications of
Americans without any judicial check and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
According to the ACLU, the NSA spying program directed by President Bush
violates the free speech and privacy rights of innocent Americans. A secret
program to monitor Americans without warrants jeopardizes the freedom of
expression that is essential to a healthy democracy. Such a policy also
threatens the exchange of information and ideas that countless businesses,
journalists and lawyers depend on for their livelihood. Under the program, the
NSA is also engaging in wholesale datamining, capturing millions of calls and
e-mails of ordinary American residents who have done nothing wrong. Saying that
the Bush administration's illegal spying on Americans must end, the ACLU filed
its lawsuit against the NSA in January of this year.
The ACLU lawsuit was
filed on behalf of a group of prominent journalists, scholars, attorneys and
national nonprofit organizations (including the ACLU) who frequently communicate
by phone and e-mail with people in the Middle East. Because of the nature of
their calls and e-mails, they believe the program is disrupting their ability to
talk with sources, locate witnesses, conduct scholarship and engage in advocacy.
The spying program has sparked national and international furor and has been
condemned by lawmakers across the political spectrum.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of
Michigan, seeks a court order declaring that the NSA spying is illegal and
ordering its immediate and permanent halt. Attorneys in the case are Ann Beeson,
Jameel Jaffer and Melissa Goodman of the national ACLU, and Michael Steinberg of
the ACLU of Michigan. The Court will hear arguments on the legality of the
program on June 12.
U.S. Representatives who signed on to the brief with
Conyers include: Neil Abercrombie, HI; Gary Ackerman, NY; Brian Baird, WA; Tammy
Baldwin, WI; Howard Berman, CA; Shelley Berkley, NV; Earl Blumenauer, OR; Rick
Boucher, VA; Corrine Brown, FL; Michael Capuano, MA; Julia Carson, IN; William
Lacy Clay, MO; Artur Davis, AL; Peter DeFazio, OR; Diana DeGette, CO; William
Delahunt, MA; Sam Farr, CA; Chaka Fattah, PA; Barney Frank, MA; Al Green, TX;
Raul Grijalva, AZ; Maurice Hinchey, NY; Ruben Hinojosa, TX; Michael Honda, CA;
Jesse Jackson, Jr., IL; Sheila Jackson Lee, TX; Eddie Bernice Johnson, TX;
Stephanie Tubbs Jones, OH; Dale E. Kildee, MI; Carolyn C. Kilpatrick, MI; Dennis
Kucinich, OH; Tom Lantos, CA; Barbara Lee, CA; Zoe Lofgren, CA; John Lewis, GA;
Carolyn Maloney, NY; Edward Markey, MA; Jim McDermott, WA; James McGovern, MA;
Martin Meehan, MA; George Miller, CA; James Moran, VA; Jerrold Nadler, NY;
Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.; James Oberstar, MN; John Olver, MA; Major Owens,
NY; Donald Payne, NJ; Charles Rangel, NY; Linda Sanchez, CA; Bernard Sanders,
VT; Janice Schakowsky, IL; Bobby Scott, VA; Jose Serrano, NY; Brad Sherman, CA;
Louise Slaughter, NY; Hilda Solis, CA; Fortney Pete Stark, CA; Bennie Thompson,
MS; John Tierney, MA; Tom Udall, NM; Chris Van Hollen, MD; Debbie Wasserman
Shultz, FL; Melvin Watt, NC; Maxine Waters, CA; Diane Watson, CA; Henry Waxman,
CA; Robert Wexler, FL; Lynn Woolsey, CA; David Wu, OR; and Albert Russell Wynn,
"We applaud those lawmakers who have joined us in this case calling for
an end to the illegal wiretapping program," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director
of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "We hope that Congress will take the
brief as a sign that oversight of this operation remains alarmingly absent. We
urge lawmakers to bring the truth to light and help restore the rule of
Business and civil rights leaders including the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People and Michael Kieschnick, President and
co-founder of Working Assets Funding Services Inc. also filed friend-of-the
court briefs on behalf of the ACLU in the legal battle against NSA wiretapping
in April of this year.
For more information on the lawsuit, including the
legal complaint and fact sheets on the case law and on the NSA spying program,
please go to www.aclu.org/nsaspying