Civil Liberties Issues
- Checks and Balances
- Domestic Surveillance: Warrantless Wiretapping
- Domestic Surveillance: Spying on Protesters and Groups
- Due Process
- Freedom of Speech, Religion, and Assembly
- Guantánamo Bay Detention Center
- Immigrants, Refugees, and Foreign Students
- Open Government/Freedom of Information
- Privacy/Freedom from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
- Real Democracy: Corporations and the Bill of Rights
- Second Amendment
- Torture, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment, and Rendition
As early as February 2001, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to start tapping phone lines and collecting e-mail messages involving communications believed to be between someone in the U.S. and someone outside the U.S. This was a major shift from the requirements of the Fourth Amendment and FISA. The Bush administration claimed this program was not a threat to the civil liberties of Americans. However, evidence that American reporters’ and activists’ phones have been tapped has disproved this claim.
The New York Times first reported on the program in 2005. Congress’s outrage and reported requests for information from the administration, always rebuffed, appeared to have subsided by 2007, when Congress passed the Protect America Act, which legalized the warrantless wiretapping program for six months, followed in 2008 by passage of the FISA Amendments Act. Though he claimed to oppose the warrantless wiretapping program and immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in it, President Obama (then Senator Obama) voted for the FISA Amendments Act.
- Talking points BORDC prepared for the 2010 PATRIOT Act reauthorization debates
- Get FISA Right is a group formed by supporters of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama after he supported the FISA Amendments Act in July 2008. They continue to advocate for policies that protect Americans' Fourth Amendment rights from illegal intrusion by government entities.
- Distribute our flyer on warrantless wiretapping (PDF)
- BORDC conference call on Military Commissions and warrantless wiretapping (October 5 & 10, 2006)
- "The End of Illegal Domestic Spying? Don't Count on It", a comprehensive report on warrantless wiretapping written by BORDC Board President Joe "Chip" Pitts. (March 15, 2007)
- Letter to Attorney General Gonzales from Representatives Adam B. Schiff (D-CA-29th) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6th) requesting answers about the administration's decision to use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for its "Terrorist Surveillance Program." (February 8, 2007)
- Letter to House and Senate leadership recommending against immunity for telecommunications companies that disobeyed the law, signed by national, regional and local organizations, including the BORDC and many local BORDCs. (November 13, 2006)
- BORDC Responses to the Bush Administration's Defenses of National Security Agency Warrantless Wiretaps
- At-a-glance guide to FISA wiretapping warrant process developed by BORDC and the Center for National Security Studies.
- Talk on warrantless wiretapping by Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, discusses the issue of warrantless wiretapping. (April 18, 2006)
- Scholar's letter (PDF) to congress after the Hamdan decision rebutting the administration's Article II argument. (July 14, 2006)
- American Bar Association Task Force on Domestic Surveillance in the Fight Against Terrorism, Report and Recommendations
- A statement of the Coalition to Defend Checks and Balances. (February 27, 2006)
Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v George W. Bush
Al-Haramain, an Oregon charity sued the government after receiving a top-secret government document indicating the charity and its attorneys had been illegally spied on under the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program. It is the only court case pending that has a government document possibly proving the warrantless wiretapping specifically harmed them.
Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v George W. Bush was heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on August 15, 2007. Oral arguments, along with photographs and testimony, reveal the Bush administration's insistence that even though the document revealing government spying exists and has been seen by many attorneys, the Department of Justice wants to deny that evidence, and alleges that hearing the case poses a threat to national security. In February 2009, the Obama administration took the same position, arguing that the case should be dismissed based on a potential national security threat. The court rejected the administration's request for a stay in the case.
- Podcast of discussion of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. George W. Bush case from November 20, 2006. Speakers include Stephen Goldberg and Ashlee Albies, co-counsel in the case.
Hepting v. AT&T
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the NSA in its massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.
- Statement by Mark Klein, the AT&T technician who blew the whistle on the company's participatio in the warrantless wiretapping program
- Wiring diagrams from the AT&T spy room
- Declaration by J. Scott Marcus, who served as Senior Technical Advisor for Internet Technology to the Federal Communications Commission from July 2001 until July 2005
- Original documents given to Wired News by Klein
- EFF's argument to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
National Security Surveillance Act of 2006
This bill, introduced by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) would have (1) made FISA optional and endorse President Bush's assertion that he had unlimited power to wiretap Americans, (2) made it even more difficult for Americans to obtain judicial review of extrajudicial surveillance activities by establishing a set of rules that make it very hard to get a full and fair hearing on the merits, and (3) authorized electronic surveillance in violation of the Fourth Amendment's requirements of probable cause and particularity and its prohibition against general warrants. The bill never made it to a floor vote.
See also a bill introduced by Senator Mike DeWine and three Republican colleagues, the "Terrorist Surveillance Act," which would nullify the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and authorize warrantless surveillance for up to 45 days without any judicial authorization.
- Senator Arlen Specter's (R-PA) statement introducing his "National Security Surveillance Act."
- Read a statement by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) regarding the Senate Judiciary Committee's approval of the Specter bill, S.2453. (September 13, 2006)
- Read Senator Russ Feingold's statement about Senator Specter's bill, S. 2453, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (September 7, 2006)
- Letter to Senator Specter from the bipartisan group of six Senate sponsors of the SAFE Act. The letter urges Senator Specter to hold more hearings before proceeding with his bill. (September 6, 2006)
- August 3 letter (PDF) from more than 30 organizations to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter More urging him to abandon a proposal that would authorize unchecked, warrantless surveillance of Americans in the United States
- Hampton, CT, Resolution to Censure the President, passed May 15, 2006.
- On April 17, 2006, Detroit District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that NSA warrantless wiretaps are illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and unconstitutional under the First and Fourth Amendments.
- San Francisco Board of Supervisors resolution urging the administration to stop warrantless wiretapping (passed on April 4, 2006, unanimously). The resolution was based on the "model resolution" below. Read an article about the resolution's passage.
- Georgetown University Law student government resolution against illegal surveillance (passed March 29, 2006). Students are now urging the University to adopt a similar resolution in support of students' constitutional rights and academic freedom.
- American Bar Association resolution, passed February 13, 2006.
- Vermont joint resolution relating to the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans, introduced February 8, 2006.
- Model resolution for state and local governments.
- Full Text of Arlen Specter's Letter to Dick Cheney on Bush Wiretapping Scandal
- Poll commissioned by the American Bar Association, which reports that 77% of Americans have reservations about the president's secret surveillance program. (February 10, 2006)
- Letter from Senators Kennedy and Feingold in response to the telecommunication industry's involvement in illegal wiretapping. (February 9, 2006)
- U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on wartime executive power and the National Security Agency's Surveillance Authority—transcripts: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. (February 6, 2006)
- Department of Justice document defending the NSA spy program: "Myth V. Reality." (January 27, 2006)
- Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, Administration Paper Defends Spy Program. (January 20, 2006) See also the DOJ document, Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency Described by the President. (January 19, 2006)
- Letter to Congressional leaders from fourteen prominent constitutional experts and former government officials characterizing the Bush administration's defense of its NSA domestic spying program as lacking "any plausible legal authority." (January 9, 2006)
- Memo by the Congressional Research Service setting forth its interpretation of Authorization For Use Of Military Force in Response to the 9/11 Attacks (P.L. 107-40): Legislative History, and the Department of Justice letter setting forth the administration's interpretation of the AUMF to which the CRS memo responds. (January 4, 2006)
- Jim Downey's response to Senator Arlen Spector's letter to Attorney General Gonzalez Re: Domestic Surveillance
Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Wartime Executive Power, March 31, 2006:
Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Wartime Executive Power, February 6, 2006
- Unanswered Questions: Questions posed to Attorney General Gonzales at the February 6, 2006, Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Wartime Executive Power
- June 18, 2007, Robert Baer, TIME, Is Assasination Allowed or Not?
- March 15, 2007, Joe W. Pitts (President, BORDC Board of Directors), Washington Spectator, The End of Illegal Spying? Don't Count on It
- January 16, 2007, David Walsh, World Socialist Website, Military, CIA prying into Americans’ financial records
- January 15, 2007, Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, Cheney Defends Efforts to Obtain Records
- January 14, 2007, Ryan Olden, Jurist, Pentagon and CIA viewing US domestic financial records
- January 7, 2007, California Chronicle, Schiff, Flake Introduce “NSA Oversight Act”
- January 3, 2007, Pamela A. MacLean, National Law Journal, 7th Circuit Ruling Expands Use of FISA Wiretaps
- January 1, 2007, Brendan Coyne, New Standard, AT&T Sued over NSA Wiretap Support
- December 26, 2006, Joseph Goldstein, New York Sun, Courts Side With NSA On Wiretaps
- December 22, 2006, Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service, Judge mulls two pretrial motions in domestic surveillance lawsuits
- September 13, 2006, Laurie Kellman, Associated Press, Senate Republicans Block Attempt to Curb Wiretapping
- September 7, 2006, Associated Press, Senate Committee Stalls Specter's Eavesdropping Bill
- August 21, 2006, Kate Martin, Nieman Watchdog, Specter’s ‘compromise’ limits judicial review and opens a Pandora’s Box
- July 25, 2006, Laurie Kellman, Associated Press, Sen. Specter Readies Bill to Sue Bush
- July 21, 2006, Dan Eggen, Washington Post, Surveillance Bill Meets Resistance in Senate
- July 20, 2006, Matt Kelley, USA Today, Feds sharpen secret tools for data mining
- April 13, 2006, John Markoff and Scott Shane, Documents Show Link Between AT&T and National Security Agency in Eavesdropping Case
- April 7, 2006, Dan Eggen, Washington Post, Warrantless Wiretaps Possible in U.S.
- March 27, 2006, Chitra Ragavan, US News & World Report, The Letter of the Law
- February 23, 2006, Patrick Radden Keefe, Boston Globe, The spy who bills us
- February 6, 2006, CNet News, Some companies helped the NSA, but which?
- January 29, 2006, New York Times (Editorial), Spies, Lies and Wiretaps*
- January 24, 2006, Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Campaign to justify spying intensifies
- January 11, 2006, Scott Shane, New York Times, NSA audit of spying is not assessing legality
- January 10, 2006, Brian Ross, ABC News, NSA whistleblower alleges illegal spying
- January 8, 2006, Ray McGovern, Common Dreams, Eavesdropping: high tech, low legality
- January 7, 2006, Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, Report rebuts Bush on spying; domestic action's legality challenged
- January 4, 2006, Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane, New York Times, Files say agency initiated growth of spying effort
- January 4, 2006, Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, The Bush administration says its phone spying program yielded information that helped to foil at least two terror attacks. Some critics aren’t convinced.
- January 23, 2009, Kim Zetter, Wired/TruthOut, NNSA Whistleblower: Wiretaps Were Combined With Credit Card Records of US Citizens
- December 26, 2005, Barron's Op-Ed by Thomas G. Donlan, Unwarranted Executive Power
- December 22, 2005, Edward M. Kennedy, Boston Globe, On wiretapping, Bush isn't listening to the Constitution
- December 20, 2005, David Cole, Salon/TruthOut, Bush's illegal spying
- October 14, 2008, Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!/TruthOut, James Bamford: "The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America"
Listen to streaming audio from her talk on April 18, 2006: