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Public Statements

Olver Opposes Warrantless Spying on Americans

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Olver Opposes Warrantless Spying on Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. ‚Congressman John W. Olver (D-1st District) has signed a letter to President Bush opposing the National Security Administration (NSA) domestic surveillance program that the president ordered without judicial warrant and disavowing his one interpretation of prior Congressional authority to do so.

"Despite assertions by the president and his administration to the contrary, Congress has not given authority to conduct electronic surveillance of the American people without issuance of a judicial warrant," Olver said.

Three days after September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), and it became law on September 18, 2001. At no point during the floor debate of the AUMF Resolution was there any discussion that the authorization to use military force would extend to the use of warrantless searches and give the president the broad authority to intercept telephone calls and other electronic communications of American citizens on American soil without first obtaining a warrant. To the contrary, it was stated during the debate that the authorization provides no new or additional grants of power to the president.

The NSA surveillance program remains largely secret due to its highly classified nature. Nevertheless, officials familiar with it say that the NSA eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. Some reports indicate that the total number of people monitored domestically has reached into the thousands, while others indicate that significantly more people have been spied upon.

Olver added, "Despite the clear legal uncertainty as to whether this kind of domestic surveillance program violates the U.S. Constitution and the individual rights of the American people, there have been no congressional hearings to review the constitutionality or to determine whether this program should be authorized."

These acts of surveillance have generated the concern of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") Court as to the Administration's apparent circumvention of the law. Several judges said they want to hear directly from the Administration why President Bush believed he had the authority to order, without the court's permission, wiretapping of some phone calls and e-mails after the Sept. 11 attacks. After assessing the NSA program, judges on the 11-member panel have expressed disapproval and sentiments that it was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA Court's work.

The text of the letter is below.

January 31, 2006
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:
Seven days after our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, Congress exercised its authority under the Constitution and granted the United States the authority to use military force against those who launched attacks against the United States. In recent weeks, this authorization, which is codified as Public Law 107-40 and hereinafter referred to as the AUMF, has been the subject of debate. The debate has centered around the legislative intent of this authorization and whether it authorized, implicitly or explicitly, the use of warrantless surveillance of American citizens on American soil.

During your press conference on December 19, 2005, you stated that you were granted the legal authority to authorize the interception of telephone calls and other communications without a warrant by Congress pursuant to the AUMF. Since that time, both you and the Vice President have repeated that justification. Moreover, in the document titled "Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency Described by the President" issued by the Department of Justice on January 19, 2006, the attorneys for the Department make a seven page argument that the "AUMF confirms and supplements the President's inherent power to use warrantless surveillance against the enemy in the current armed conflict." The document goes on to state that "[t]he text of the AUMF demonstrates... that Congress authorized the President to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance against the enemy." This argument suggests that the AUMF gave you unlimited authority to bypass existing laws and belies the effort that we took not to make any express statements that could be construed as expanding executive powers in excess of the U.S. Constitution and existing law.

The NSA Surveillance program remains largely secret due to its highly classified nature. However, officials familiar with it say that the NSA eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time and some reports indicate that the total number of people monitored domestically has reached into the thousands. This program has monitored American citizens in the exercise of their First Amendment rights, with the Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy, and who have not been identified as "the enemy."

At no point during the floor debate of the AUMF Resolution was there any discussion that the authorization to use military force would extend to the use of warrantless searches and vest you with the broad authority to intercept telephone calls and other electronic communications of American citizens on American soil without first obtaining a warrant. To the contrary, it was stated during the debate that the authorization "provides no new or additional grants of power to the President.î

It is our duty to uphold the provisions of the U.S. Constitution, preserve the system of checks and balances between branches of our Government, and to protect the rights of the American people to the greatest extent possible. We stand firm on our commitment to protect the United States from terrorist attacks and will continue to exercise our legislative responsibility to support any lawful means of preventing any future terrorist activity. However, we feel that it is our duty to clarify the mischaracterization of our actions. We, the undersigned Members of Congress, did not intend for the AUMF to be used as justification for programs such as the one currently in use by the NSA. We therefore strongly oppose any statement indicating that our actions granted you the power to authorize warrantless electronic surveillance. Any statements made by you or other members of the Administration, including Department of Justice attorneys acting on your behalf, indicating that the AUMF that we enacted was done with the intent to authorize the use of warrantless surveillance is false and misleading to the American public.

Sincerely,

Rep. Neil Abercrombie
Rep. Michael Capuano
Rep. Julia Carson
Rep. Donna Christensen
Rep. John Conyers
Rep. Danny K. Davis (IL)
Rep. Peter Defazio
Rep. Bill Delahunt
Rep. Lloyd Doggett
Rep. Chaka Fattah
Rep. Sam Farr
Rep. Bob Filner
Rep. Barney Frank
Rep. Raul Grijalva
Rep. Maurice Hinchey
Rep. Michael Honda
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick
Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Rep. John Lewis (GA)
Rep. Jim McDermott
Rep. James McGovern
Rep. Carolyn Maloney
Rep. Edward Markey
Rep. Martin Meehan
Rep. Gregory Meeks
Rep. Gwen Moore (WI)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton
Rep. Major Owens
Rep. John W. Olver
Rep. Frank Pallone
Rep. Donald Payne
Rep. David Price (NC)
Rep. Charles Rangel
Rep. Bernard Sanders
Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Rep. Bobby Scott
Rep. Jose Serrano
Rep. Hilda Solis
Rep. Fortney Pete Stark
Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS)
Rep. John Tierney
Rep. Edolphus Towns
Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. Diane Watson
Rep. Melvin Watt
Rep. Robert Wexler
Rep. Lynn Woolsey

http://www.house.gov/olver/news/pr060207.html

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