Talking Points: Stop Big Brother Surveillance!
Current Legislation Will Not Fix Warrantless Wiretapping
Three Senate bills passed through committee last week and are headed to the Senate floor for quick passage: Senator Arlen Specter’s S. 2453, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s S. 3001 and Senator Mike DeWine’s S. 2455. House leadership is pushing Representative Heather Wilson’s H.R. 5825. Read a CDT (Center for Democracy and Technology) analysis of the Specter and Wilson bills.
Some BORDC allies have accepted Feinstein’s bill as a political expediency – as a lesser evil. While some believe concessions to the White House, such as those contained in the Feinstein bill, are necessary to achieve political compromise, the BORDC has concerns about the slippery slope of increased executive power without increased executive accountability.
Urge your senators and your representative NOT to consider draft legislation that would give the executive branch new surveillance powers that are immune to oversight by the courts and Congress. Call for a full, public investigation of the NSA surveillance program.
- The President has broken the law. He must stop warrantless eavesdropping and collecting records on all our phone calls and come clean with the American people about any further secret powers he claims as Commander-in-Chief.
- The administration's claim that it must break the law to protect us from al-Qaeda are just plain false: any communications specifically targeting an al-Qaeda member outside the U.S. doesn't even need a warrant, and FISA judges are ready and waiting to issue warrants to wiretap any suspected al-Qaeda in the U.S.-- ven if those calls include U.S. citizens or residents.
- Overburdening the FBI with thousands of false leads makes us less safe because it leaves them less time and fewer resources to find the real terrorists.
- How can Congress even consider passing legislation to make these illegal programs legal, when it can't even find out what they entail? It must investigate. This is no time for new legislation!
- What's needed is an immediate, full and unrestricted public investigation into the NSA spying program, including a probe into the massive database collecting Americans' phone calls.
- The idea that the database of all our calls is permissible as long as it doesn't contain names and addresses is ludicrous. By linking the database of phone calls with all the other government data mining operations, the government can literally follow our every move, every contact, and every transaction. It's "Big Brother" run amok!
- Congress needs to pass whistleblower protections for government employees and safeguards for journalists who provide information to the American public about illegal government acts.
- The Fourth Amendment is clear. Electronic surveillance of this sort requires a warrant. A warrant allows a judge to serve as a check against executive abuse of power. That check keeps our government honest - preventing one branch of government from mischief and errors.
Senator Arlen Specter's solution for a President who refuses to obey the law is to change the pesky law governing the wiretapping of Americans in order to make the President's warrantless wiretapping program legal.
The Senate Judiciary Committee took no action on S. 2453 on 8/3, so the bill must now wait until Congress returns on 9/5. Here are some talking points for your visit with your Senator during the August recess.
- Congress should investigate, not legislate. The Administration has not yet answered important questions regarding the program and has blocked investigation into its authorization. A full investigation into the domestic surveillance program is urgently needed to determine the nature and scope of the spying program, as well as the facts surrounding its approval.
- Congress should let the traditional court system do its job. Senator Specter's bill, S. 2453, would pull all suits against the wiretapping program out of the traditional legal system and into a secret court that has no procedures for hearing argument from anyone but the administration. If anyone has broken the law, they must be held accountable by the courts.
- Congress has enacted intelligence laws that are the exclusive means for conducting domestic surveillance. These laws require that the government obtain approval from a secret intelligence court before eavesdropping on Americans. The proposed new legislation would reward the Administration's stonewalling and failure to follow the laws passed by Congress. The rule of law must be restored before any further changes are considered.
- We cannot allow terrorists to change the core values of America. As Americans, we believe in checks and balances, and we have a system that works. Spying on people without a judge’s permission and without evidence of any crime betrays that system and violates the law.
- I am deeply concerned about the President's domestic warrantless wiretapping program. If a call comes to the United States from al-Qaeda, the President can intercept that call under current FISA law, and he can wiretap for 72 hours before seeking a warrant. But if the Senate passes Senator Specter's proposed bill (S. 2453), the President will never have to get a warrant or to submit evidence to a neutral judge that the person calling a U.S. person is from al-Qaeda.
- As we've seen at Guantánamo Bay, the Administration has a poor record of determining who's al-Qaeda and who's not. Therefore, I am not confident in their abilities to determine whose phone calls should be tapped. My phone calls could be tapped based on an error, with no oversight mechanism in place to correct it.
- Warrantless surveillance is a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment. But Senator Specter's solution, S. 2453, would not fix the problem: It would give the President a blank check from Congress, not only for the NSA wiretapping program, but for other programs, by eliminating the need to obtain individual warrants. I don't want to have to explain to my children and grandchildren why my Senators ignored the Fourth Amendment and allowed a President to make secret rules that allow the government to spy on all of us.
- It's great that Senator Specter wants to have a court look at the NSA program and make a determination on its legality. But that's a job for the Supreme Court, not the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We need a public court that's accountable to the people to settle this matter.
- We Americans need Congress to act as a coequal branch of government by providing a true check on the executive branch. Please uphold your constituents' Fourth Amendment right to be free of warrantless searches without probable cause by making sure that S. 2453 dies in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It must never reach the Senate floor.