Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and 22 other House members sent a letter to President Bush today requesting that he provide a range of information concerning the controversial warrantless surveillance program by the NSA, RAW STORY has learned.
In light of recent disclosures by NBC that CNN Reporter Christiane Amanpour's telephone calls may have been intercepted by the Bush Administration -- a fact caught by AmericaBLOG's John Aravosis. The Democrats asked for information regarding whether any reporters or other members of the media have had phone calls intercepted under the NSA program.
The congressmembers also asked the President to propose statutory language that would specifically authorize the program so that it could be considered as part of a possible extension of the USA PATRIOT Act scheduled to sunset Feb. 3.
The text of the letter follows:
January 5, 2006
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to you regarding the National Security Agency's use of warrantless surveillance involving people in the United States. While we believe it is critical that communications with Al Qaeda representatives be scrutinized, it is also imperative that it be done in a manner that respects the law and the privacy rights of individuals in this country, and as has been done by prior Administrations.
As you know, since this program was first disclosed by The New York Times on December 16, 2005, it has caused a firestorm of controversy. Among other things, concerns have been raised that not only is the program constitutionally problematic; but also that it is inconsistent with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") and not authorized by any subsequently passed law (including the September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force); it included within its sweep calls solely within the United States; the intelligence information was widely disseminated without adequate controls; and that it involved tapping into telecommunication data and voice networks, thereby intercepting a large volume of telephone and Internet communications. Concerns about the program were not only raised by Members of the Intelligence Committees and Members of the FISA Court (one of whom resigned in protest), but by then-Deputy Attorney General Comey and, reportedly, by then-Attorney General Ashcroft.
Perhaps the most significant concern many of us have is that such a program could be utilized with the Executive Branch acting in the role of attorney, judge, and jury in deciding whether or not the surveillance was justified or appropriate. This is particularly perplexing given the ease with which your and other Administrations have been able to obtain FISA warrants in the past, and the fact that such warrants can even be obtained on a retroactive basis.
Given the controversy and myriad legal concerns raised by the surveillance program, we would ask that you forward to us proposed statutory language authorizing the program so that the Members can consider the same as part of our review of those provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act scheduled to sunset on February 3, 2006.
In addition, so that we may better understand the nature of the program, we would ask that you forward to us the following:
Any and all legal opinions and memorandum concerning the lawfulness of the program
Any and all orders authorizing and reauthorizing the program
Any and all records and information indicating the number of U.S. persons for whom such surveillance was authorized
Any and all records and information indicating the number of U.S. persons for whom communication to or from them were intercepted
Any and all records and information indicating the number of intercepted communications occurring completely within the U.S.
Any and all records identifying any members of the U.S. press, other U.S. media or Members of Congress for whom communications to or from them were intercepted
Any and all records and information indicating how the information concerning U.S. persons was stored, shared among various agencies and departments, and whether, when and how such information is to be destroyed.
To the extent any of the above includes classified information, we would be willing to discuss a means by which certain information can be redacted.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Rep. John Conyers, Jr.; Rep. Bobby Scott; Rep. Lofgren; Rep. Nadler; Rep. Tauscher; Rep. Jackson Lee; Rep. McDermott; Rep. Meehan; Rep. Olver; Rep. Wexler; Rep. Inslee; Rep. Schakowsky; Rep. Doggett; Rep. Kucinich; Rep. McCollum; Rep. Berman; Rep. Baldwin; Rep. Van Hollen; Rep. David Price; Rep. Tom Udall; Rep. Ackerman; Rep. Wasserman Shultz; Rep. Sabo; Rep. Tierney; Rep. Hinchey; Rep. Sanders
Update: Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has also signed onto the letter.