For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Kafayat Alli-Balogun, 212 998–6735
Jonathan Hafetz, 212 998–6289
Aziz Huq, 212 992–8632
Top Civil Rights Groups Join Challenge to NSA Spying
New York, NY Today, the NAACP and five other leading civil rights organizations joined the growing challenge to the Administrations illegal National Security Agency spying program.
In friend-of-the-court briefs filed by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the groups contend that this secret program violates all Americans basic free speech and privacy rights. The groups note that principal victims of illegal surveillance in the past were wholly legitimate civil rights organizations and their leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others Americans now universally regarded as national heroes. The briefs are being filed today in two suits brought to halt the NSAs domestic surveillance program: ACLU v. National Security Agency and Center for Constitutional Rights v. Bush.
The briefs tell how for decades Democratic and Republican administrations alike engaged in warrantless electronic surveillance of Americans engaged in completely legitimate activities, chilling the exercise of core constitutional rights. These abuses were exposed in the mid-1970s by a U.S. Senate committee investigation, known as the Church Committee. The Brennan Centers Senior Counsel, Fritz Schwarz, served as chief counsel to the Committee.
As these leading civil rights organizations note, unfettered domestic spying is not used to protect Americas security but to harass people fighting for Americas constitutional freedoms, said Michael Waldman, Executive Director of the Brennan Center. Now, we honor Dr. King, noted Waldman, but we should never forget that intelligence agencies spent years harassing Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. Todays concerns about the abuse of executive power are not abstract but at the heart of making government responsible and accountable.
Congress responded to the revelations of past abuses by passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, subjecting executive surveillance to judicial review and striking a balance between liberty and national security. The current administration, however, has ignored this law, spying illegally on Americans and unnecessarily jeopardizing the Nations long tradition of civil rights activity.
The Liberty and National Security Project of the Brennan Center works to ensure accountability, transparency, and checks and balances in the formulation and implementation of national security policy. It is founded on the belief that these are vital for individual liberties and an effective and sustainable counter-terrorism strategy.