September 10th, 2007 13:58 EST
Courts Rebuke Bush Administration: Will Congress Follow?
Dear Judyth Piazza,
We`re winning in the courts. And now, we have to win in Congress. Last week, two federal courts responded to ACLU lawsuits by powerfully asserting basic constitutional principles. They outright rejected the Bush administration`s abuses of power.
These two rulings were very clear about essential principles that you, the ACLU and the American people have been clear about all along. In America, no administration is above the law.
Now, we need Congress to act with the same clarity demonstrated in our courtroom victories. Spread the word that it`s time for Congress to rein in the broad and unconstitutional overreaching abuses of the Bush Administration. Speak out by writing a letter to the editor today.
Last Thursday, in a significant victory, a federal judge in New York struck down the amended Patriot Act`s National Security Letter (NSL) provision. The law has permitted the FBI to demand private information about people within the United States without court approval. It also allowed the government to gag those who receive NSLs from discussing these letters with anyone.
U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero found this gag power was unconstitutional and, because the statute that authorized it prevented courts from engaging in meaningful judicial review of the gags, it violated the First Amendment and the principle of separation of powers. Furthermore, because the gag provisions could not be separated from the entire amended statute, the court struck down the statute in its entirety.
In our second legal victory last week, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. rejected the government`s broad claims of secrecy that the government made when it refused to comply with our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, demanding the release of documents involving the National Security Agency`s (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program. This ruling strikes a blow to the administration`s sweeping and often unfounded secrecy claims.
Although it allows the government to withhold some information, the ruling requires the Department of Justice, the FBI and the NSA to provide additional explanations for withholding many documents related to the program, particularly those that deal with legal justifications for the program.
The ACLU is also fighting undue secrecy by asking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to release its orders and legal opinions that reportedly led to the recent sweeping expansion of the government`s wiretapping authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The Court in an unprecedented action told the government to explain why the ACLU`s request shouldn`t be granted. The government responded on August 31, essentially arguing that the Court should simply defer to the government`s claims of secrecy no questions asked. Later this week, the ACLU will file our response to the government`s indefensible position.
As all this fast-moving action makes clear, the courts have a vital role to play in protecting our civil liberties. But, we can`t defend freedom without the legislative branch also standing up against prolonged and unjustifiable erosions of our basic rights.
Write a Letter to the Editor demanding action in Congress.
The opinion section is the most-read section of the newspaper not only by everyday readers but by leaders in Congress and their staffs. Our goal is to get 3,000 letters to the editor printed by September 30 to help us keep the pressure on Congress to fix the flawed FISA law.
For most of this administration`s time in the White House, the House and the Senate have been silent partners in President Bush`s systematic undermining of the Constitution and the rule of law. But you and I both know reckless assertions of power cannot continue to be tolerated.
In the days and weeks ahead, the ACLU will be stepping up pressure on Congress, demanding that the House and Senate stop warrantless spying, disavow torture, restore habeas corpus, and shut down Guant"namo prison.
We need your help in urging a too-timid Congress to act decisively and without further delay. Start today by writing a letter to the editor demanding that Congress fix the FISA mess they created this August. It only takes a few minutes.
The legal victories you made possible are crucially important. Now, help us win equally essential victories in Congress.
Anthony D. Romero
P.S. In addition to sending a letter to the editor, I hope you`ll sign our "Don`t Fail Freedom" petition demanding immediate action by Congress to restore our constitutional rights.