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 new 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 program4—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.
Thanks for all you do,
–Nita, Eli, Jennifer, Wes and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
Monday, September 18th, 2006
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