your name to our Freedom of Information
Act request to get the facts about George
Bush's use of the National Security Agency
to spy on American citizens:
This is not an easy letter to write, and I'm
afraid it may be a hard one to believe.
By now you have probably heard the news that
George Bush is using the National Security Agency
to conduct surveillance on American citizens
without the consent of any court. After initially
refusing to confirm the story, the President
has admitted to personally overseeing this domestic
spying program for years and he says he intends
to continue the program.
These actions explicitly violate a law designed
to protect US citizens. But the administration
says that other laws somehow allow for this
unprecedented use of a foreign intelligence
agency to spy on Americans right here in the
United States. According to reports, political
appointees in the Justice Department's Office
of Legal Counsel wrote still-classified legal
opinions laying out the supposed justification
for this program.
I have asked our General Counsel to draft a
Freedom of Information Act request for the relevant
legal opinions and memos written by that office.
Since the program's existence is no longer a
secret, these memos should be released -- Americans
deserve to know exactly what authority this
administration believes it has.
You can help pressure the administration to
release these documents by signing on to our
Freedom of Information Act request in the next
This extra-legal activity is even more disturbing
because it is unnecessary -- the administration
already has access to a secret Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court. That court was created precisely
to provide speedy, secure judicial review to
the actions of our intelligence agencies.
To allow authorities act as quickly as possible,
officials can even apply for a retroactive warrant
days after the surveillance has already begun.
Secret warrants have been approved over 19,000
times -- only five applications were rejected
in nearly thirty years. The court, which regularly
acts within hours, is hardly a roadblock, but
it prevents abuse by providing the oversight
required by our system of checks and balances.
This administration must demonstrate clearly
what legal authority allows it to disregard
criminal prohibitions on unilateral domestic
spying. Sign on to the request now -- it will
be delivered on Thursday:
In an interview on Monday, Attorney General
Alberto Gonzalez admitted that the administration
asked certain Members of Congress about getting
a new law to allow spying on Americans without
a warrant. Realizing that even a Republican-controlled
Congress wouldn't authorize such a measure,
they decided to manipulate current law and proceed
with the program anyway.
Manipulation of a law like this is dangerous.
The same Office of Legal Counsel used vague
assertions of sweeping authority in the infamous
torture memos. The victim of this reasoning
is the rule of law itself -- when this administration
asserts sweeping authority to step over any
line of legality, it asserts that there are
no lines at all.
Does this administration believe there are
any lines it can't cross? Americans deserve
to know. Join our Freedom of Information Act
Some Republicans will try to pretend that this
is just another political fight. But Americans
of every political viewpoint are rightfully
disturbed by this extra-legal activity. The
Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, Arlen Specter, shocked by the report
of this activity, promised to convene hearings
Even Bob Barr, who was one of the most conservative
members of Congress and the first member to
file articles of impeachment against President
"What's wrong with it is several-fold.
One, it's bad policy for our government to be
spying on American citizens through the National
Security Agency. Secondly, it's bad to be spying
on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly,
it's bad to be spying on Americans apparently
in violation of federal laws against doing it
without court order."
We need to know whether George Bush went beyond
the limits of the law -- and whether he and
his administration believe that there are any
limits at all. Please join this important request:
Even after the press found out about these
actions, the administration tried to cover up
its existence. According to Newsweek, George
Bush summoned the publisher and executive editor
of the New York Times to the Oval Office to
try to stop them from running the story of these
We have seen this kind of arrogance of power
Richard Nixon once said in an interview that,
"if the president does it, it can't be
He found out that wasn't true. This administration
may need a reminder.
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
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