Destroying Freedom

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Apr 202007
 

From Stop Illegal Spying

Click to learn more about helping stop illegal spying in America.George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, a consortium of 27 libraries in the Hartford, Conn., area, has, since 2005, been fighting a National Security letter request from the FBI for subscription information on patrons of the library system. Because of the way the PATRIOT Act is written, he was only recently, through a court order, un-gagged to be able to testify before Congress about the experience.

Said Christian, “Terrorists win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free.” Christian said his experience “should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution” about the strain that the government’s pursuit of would-be terrorists puts on civil liberties. He said the government uses the USA Patriot Act and other laws to learn, without proper judicial oversight or any after-the-fact review, what citizens are researching in libraries.

A recent report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found 48 violations of law or rules in the FBI’s use of national security letters from 2003 through 2005. Some congressional critics want to tighten legal safeguards on the letters.

” ‘Trust us’ doesn’t cut it when it comes to the government’s power to obtain Americans’ sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage,” said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil rights.

Now the Bush administration wants even more power to secretly spy on Americans who have done nothing wrong, further destroying American liberty. This administration tells us that “terrorists hate our freedom.” Yet, it seems that this administration hates our freedom even more, for it’s hell bent on destroying it. Do we have to destroy freedom to save it from terrorists?

The truth is that U.S. government agencies had all the information they needed to detect and stop the September 11, 2001, attacks. That they failed to do so is not because they didn’t have the power to spy on ordinary Americans without warrants or reason that the administration demanded and received and now wants more of.

You should urge Congress to pass the Read the Bills Act, which would prevent Congress from passing bills it hasn’t actually read, the way the Patriot Act was passed.

Mar 092006
 

Republicans are packaging as “reform” a plan that would gut FISA, leaving the president free to spy on Americans without obtaining a warrant. A NY Times editorial expresses appropriate outrage at this cynical ploy to shield the president’s lawless behavior:

Faced with a president who is almost certainly breaking the law, the Senate sets up a panel to watch him do it and calls that control. … The Republicans’ idea of supervision involves saying the White House should get a warrant for spying whenever possible. Currently a warrant is needed, period. And that’s the right law. The White House has not offered a scrap of evidence that it interferes with antiterrorist operations. Mr. Bush simply decided the law did not apply to him.

The Times reports that the deal, negotiated with the White House, “left Senate Democrats fuming on the sidelines.” The Times also reports that the proposal is “likely to win approval from the full Senate.” Isn’t it time for spineless Democrats to stop fuming and start filibustering?

Mar 012006
 

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee clarifying his Feb. 6 testimony on Bush’s warrantless electronic surveillance activities. I call it backtracking.

In a letter yesterday to senators in which he asked to clarify his Feb. 6 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales also seemed to imply that the administration’s original legal justification for the program was not as clear-cut as he indicated three weeks ago.

At that appearance, Gonzales confined his comments to the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, saying that President Bush had authorized it “and that is all that he has authorized.”

But in yesterday’s letter, Gonzales, citing that quote, wrote: “I did not and could not address . . . any other classified intelligence activities.” Using the administration’s term for the recently disclosed operation, he continued, “I was confining my remarks to the Terrorist Surveillance Program as described by the President, the legality of which was the subject” of the Feb. 6 hearing.

Shorter version: Bush has been engaged in more warrantless spying on Americans than the Administration has disclosed to date.

At least one constitutional scholar who testified before the committee yesterday said in an interview that Gonzales appeared to be hinting that the operation disclosed by the New York Times in mid-December is not the full extent of eavesdropping on U.S. residents conducted without court warrants.

“It seems to me he is conceding that there are other NSA surveillance programs ongoing that the president hasn’t told anyone about,” said Bruce Fein, a government lawyer in the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations.

Sen. Russ Feingold called Gonzales’ misleading Senate testimony right away. From his Feb. 7 statement, delivered on the Senate floor:? Continue reading »

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