Democratic Leaders Urge Speaker to Hold Hearings on President's Authorization of National Security Agency's Activities
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer; Congressman John Conyers, Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee; Congressman Henry Waxman, Ranking Member on the Government Reform Committee; and Congresswoman Jane Harman, Ranking Member on the Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Speaker Hastert last night urging him to join Democrats in establishing an independent panel to hold hearings regarding President Bush authorizing the National Security Agency to conduct unspecified activities.
Below is the text of the letter:
December 17, 2005
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representatives
H 232 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
In his radio address of December 17, President Bush disclosed that, after September 11, 2001, he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to undertake certain unnamed activities designed to prevent additional terrorist attacks. The President argued his action was "fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities."
An article in the December 16 issue of the New York Times, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts" has led to the inevitable conclusion that the President was referring to an authorization to allow the NSA to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance of U.S. persons.
Regardless of whether that is true, we believe that the President's statements on the 17th, and the justifiable concern of the American people over the allegations in the Times article, require the House of Representatives to take steps immediately to conduct hearings on the scope of Presidential power in the area of electronic surveillance. These hearings would benefit substantially if an independent panel of Constitutional scholars and experts on the laws affecting intelligence activities was to examine existing statutes, regulations, practices and precedents. We urge that you and the Democratic Leader establish such a panel jointly. The work of this panel would enable the House to make more informed judgments on whether adjustments to those authorities are necessary.
We believe that the President must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people, but that intelligence must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation. Our suggestion for hearings and the appointment of an independent panel of experts is fully in keeping with that belief.
We look forward to receiving your response on this important matter.
Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Hon. Steny Hoyer
Hon. John Conyers
Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary
Hon. Henry Waxman
Ranking Member, Committee on Government Reform
Hon. Jane Harman
Ranking Member, Committee on Intelligence