Worse Than the Patriot Act

You may have read headlines calling the Cheney-Specter bill on surveillance oversight a "compromise." But make no mistake, this deal is nothing short of a complete capitulation to the Bush administration.

The bill includes legalized assaults on our civil liberties worse even than the sweeping powers ceded to the government by the Patriot Act, and would write into law what is now the administration's belief that the president can wiretap any American he wants without any check.

From the Supreme Court to people on the street, America is starting to wake up to the Bush administration's abuse of power. Unfortunately, Congress hasn't gotten the message and is poised to rubber stamp a dangerous agenda that is doing real harm to our democracy.

Not only is Congress considering NSA "oversight" legislation that would hand the president vast new powers—only days after the Defense Department stated that it will comply with the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of detainees—a top Justice Department lawyer urged Congress to "ratify" the military commissions that the Supreme Court invalidated two weeks ago.

The headlines are full of White House spin claiming that Senator Arlen Specter's (R-PA) bill on surveillance is a successful compromise between Congress and the White House. Of course, Senator Specter would like you to believe he is taking a stand on the Bush's administration's actions because he knows that is what most Americans want Congress to do. But in reality these ill-advised proposals give the president a blank check to spy on Americans without a warrant and without mandatory judicial review of his actions.

You can help us get out the truth about this bill and the dangers it poses to our basic rights. Please take a few minutes to contact your newspaper right now. Tell them that this "compromise" actually compromises our rights and gives a blank check to the president.
//action.aclu.org/site/R?i=iewk83aCNKYiULGL02u3Yg..

It is very important that the American people know that the bill that is supposed to rein in surveillance of innocent citizens actually includes:

# Legalization of the president's program of warrantless surveillance on Americans, a program that is illegal under current law and unconstitutional.

# A diminished role for the court that oversees the NSA's warrantless domestic spying, making oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) optional -- and we know that when this administration doesn't believe in getting court warrants even when required; making them "optional" is making them non-existent.

# A new, unconstitutional process for challenging surveillance, via a secret appeals court composed of judges hand-picked solely by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who supports expansive presidential powers.

# An information blackout by the Executive Branch against the Congress or our courts when it comes to the names and number of Americans monitored by the spying program. Without any oversight, countless journalists, lawyers, hotel clerks and others will inevitably be swept into round-the-clock monitoring of their phone conversations, indefinitely.

We cannot allow the Executive Branch to weasel out of obeying the Supreme Court and federal law; and Congress is overdue in asserting and affirming its role of keeping the president in check and reining in the president's sweeping interpretation of power.

The ACLU will be keeping the pressure on all summer and into the fall, and we'll be calling on you and everyone across America who cares about our liberties to join us in the fight.

How these stories are characterized in the press plays an important role in our success. So, please take a few minutes right now to write your local paper with our easy-to-use letter to the editor tool.
//action.aclu.org/site/R?i=_dNXamkcndn9i9rYWLiBQA..

As always, thank you for standing with us. It is absolutely essential that every one of us rallies to protect the freedoms that define our democracy.

Sincerely,

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director ACLU

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