We need to know the facts


The Senate Intelligence Committee is meeting on February 16.
Please join me in urging the Committee to vote for an extensive investigation into the scope of President Bush’s domestic surveillance program at that meeting.

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On Monday, February 6, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales regarding the legality of President Bush’s domestic surveillance program that is being conducted by the National Security Agency. You can see video of his answers to my questions by clicking on the images at the bottom of this post.

Unfortunately, as you can see from Attorney General Gonzales’s answers on Monday, after two rounds of questions, we know little more about the program than when we began. Furthermore, so far the Senate Intelligence Committee has been reluctant to undertake an extensive investigation to make sure Congress has all the facts.

This cannot stand: we need to know the facts.

Issues concerning the core privacy rights of United States citizens, the critical balance between national security and privacy, whether we are fighting an effective war on terrorism, and the fundamental structure of our separation of powers are directly involved here and deserve a full and thorough examination.

I am calling for a bipartisan effort similar to the one undertaken when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was first written. At the time, writing FISA was a joint project of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Over a period of several years, the two committees conducted extensive public and private investigations to make sure we got it right — crafting a law that protected our national security while safeguarding our civil liberties.

I believe we need to undertake a similar process here. It is essential that such a carefully considered record be developed so that we don’t act precipitously either to legislate or not to legislate.

At present, our knowledge of the National Security Agency program is severely limited, compounding the difficulty of assessing its legality — although my view as one of the drafters of FISA is that it is illegal (and the great weight of legal authority backs this conclusion). Nevertheless, to make a true assessment of the value of the program or programs, their impact on civil liberties, and whether they have contributed to our efforts to prevent terrorism, we need to know much more. We need to know the facts.

That is why the Intelligence Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Roberts, must act to hold extensive - and if necessary, secret - hearings on this program. On Thursday, February 16, the Intelligence Committee is holding a business meeting. I urge the committee to vote for a full and thorough investigation on that day.

Please join me in urging the Senate Intelligence Committee to hold extensive hearings and a thorough investigation of President Bush’s domestic surveillance program.

Through these hearings, in public whenever feasible, and in classified settings when necessary, we need to learn, among other things:

(1) the nature and scope of the program or programs;
(2) when did the program or programs begin;
(3) who has the authority to order a wiretap;
(4) how many people have this authority;
(5) how decisions are made on whom to target;
(6) how many terrorists or collaborators have been identified;
(7) how many arrests have been made as a result;
(8) what is done with the data collected that is not relevant;
(9) any procedures followed to protect civil liberties under the program or programs; and
(10) the reasons why the FISA warrant procedure was not followed.

I believe we can preserve the promise of our Founders — to simultaneously protect both our national security and our civil liberties. It is beyond me why the Administration did not seek amendments to FISA to meet its requirements when it sought and obtained changes in FISA during the PATRIOT Act and other legislative debates. But, at this point, Congress must now fulfill its Constitutional oversight responsibility.

Thank you,


Round One:

Round Two:

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