September 27, 2007
Public Hearings Needed
By James Wilson is one of 60 groups that signed this letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: September 25, 2007 Senator Harry Reid Majority Leader United States Senate Washington, DC 20510 Dear Majority Leader: We, the undersigned privacy, civil liberties, government openness and faith-based organizations, write to ask you to insist on public hearings on any proposed legislation to alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) before either the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence or the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on such legislation. Public hearings with Members of both committees on any proposed legislation involving surveillance that affects the rights of people in the U.S. are greatly needed. This opportunity for public examination is essential. This is especially crucial in the aftermath of what happened in August when substantial changes to FISA, crafted by the administration, were passed by Congress without any public hearings with anyone other than administration witnesses speaking to Senators. Intelligence Committee hearings with administration witnesses alone are not enough to instill public confidence in this process, given all of the concerns that have been raised about the administration’s actions. There has been no fair opportunity to explore areas of profound disagreement or even common ground. With four full months before the so-called “Protect America Act” (PAA) is set to sunset, this is not the time to rush through additional changes to FISA/PAA without meaningful public input. We understand from the statements of the Director of National Intelligence that Senators have made themselves available to meet numerous times with the administration about its interpretation of the PAA over the past few weeks. And, we believe the administration’s statements have been incomplete and inaccurate regarding both the intended and unintended consequences of the PAA and other changes the administration desires. However, the Intelligence Committee has yet to hold a single public hearing, to hear the views of anyone other than the administration, about the serious concerns the public has with the PAA’s effect on the rights of people in the U.S. The committee has also not yet held any public hearing to assess the administration’s push to make this law permanent, expand it, and give amnesty from liability to companies that provided the government warrantless access to Americans’ communications. We believe Congress cannot fulfill its constitutional responsibilities by voting on legislation making the PAA permanent, extending the law’s sunset or giving immunity for past warrantless surveillance of Americans, without public hearings about these very controversial proposals. We implore you not to compound the mistakes made in August with rushed action on FISA/PAA in the coming weeks. The rights and civil liberties of Americans are too important to proceed in this way. Letter to Senator Reid Page 2 Thank you for considering our views. Sincerely, Center for National Security Studies American Civil Liberties Union Former Congressman Bob Barr, 21st Century Liberties Chair for Freedom & Privacy, American Conservative Union Bill of Rights Defense Committee Liberty Coalition American Library Association American Association of Law Libraries American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression Federation of American Scientists American Conservative Defense Alliance American Policy Center The Rutherford Institute Shane Cory, Executive Director, Libertarian National Committee Fund for Constitutional Government Defending Dissent Foundation Privacy Activism People for the American Way American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Asian Law Caucus Muslim Advocates National Immigrant Solidarity Network Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee National Immigration Project Catholic Charities Hawaii Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Massachusetts Chapter Rural Organizing Project-- Advancing Democracy in Rural Oregon Ellen Smith, Managing Editor and Owner, Mine Safety and Health News Grassroots Leadership Open Society Policy Center Electronic Frontier Foundation Bruce Fein The Constitution Project League of Women Voters U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation Doug Bandow, Vice President, Citizen Outreach Project Mary Brumder, Executive Director, Government Accountability Project Association of Research Libraries Special Libraries Association Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights Republican Liberty Caucus Bill Moyer, Exec. Dir., Backbone Campaign OMB Watch National Lawyers' Guild--National Office National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Fairfax County Privacy Council American Friends Service Committee Friends Committee on National Legislation Japanese American Citizens League Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund Council on American-Islamic Relations National Immigration Project ADC Michigan CAUSA EnviroJustice Velvet Revolution Justice Through Music Pain Relief Network Fuerza Mundial/End the End Game National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement Ann Benson, Directing Attorney, Washington Defender Association Immigration Project
Filed under Civil Liberties
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