The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Linda Paris, (202) 675-2312;  

ACLU Presents Arguments Today for Congressional Select Committee to Reform US Surveillance Policies

Panel Discussion on Next Steps for Domestic Surveillance Highlights Consensus Among Privacy Rights Advocates


The American Civil Liberties Union presented its reasons for Congress to establish a Select Committee to review U.S. surveillance policies at a panel discussion today entitled, "Domestic Surveillance: Next Steps." As a panelist, Michael MacLeod-Ball, Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel for the Washington Legislative Office, talked about the need to reform intrusive surveillance powers which have resulted in the misuse of national security letters, untracked administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI that do not require going through a judge, as well as the wasteful use of taxpayer dollars spent monitoring peaceful law-abiding protestors in Maryland and Texas.

The one-hour discussion was sponsored by the Government Accounting Project as part of its annual four-day conference in Washington, D.C., called the National Whistleblower Assembly. The panel featured moderator Jesselyn Raddack, GAP's Homeland Security Director, as well as panelists Tom Tamm, whistleblower in the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program and Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center.

The following can be attributed to Michael MacLeod-Ball, Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel for the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"U.S. surveillance policies have seriously upset any meaningful checks on executive authority. After 9/11, the surveillance state virtually became a lawless state. The executive branch engaged in warrantless wiretapping and spied on its citizens based on race, ethnicity, religion or political review among other illegal and counterproductive activities.

"Many intelligence abuses involve one of the FBI's most intrusive tools, national security letters (NSLs). Without any judicial oversight, law enforcement officials can collect financial and other sensitive and legally protected information about innocent people. It has been well documented by the Department of Justice Inspector General and the media that the FBI was not tracking the use of these NSLs and abused even the limited restraints imposed on their use.

"For over a year in Maryland, the Maryland State Police compiled dossiers on local peace and anti-death penalty groups. In Texas law enforcement circles, political dissent was deemed to be a pre-cursor to terrorism.

"It is time for Congress to help restore the rule of law by investigating and airing the full extent of illegal and inappropriate activities and developing a record on which to base reform legislation. A Select Committee would bring together the appropriate members of Congress with jurisdiction and expertise over the relevant issues."

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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