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ACTION ALERT: Defend the Constitution from NSA Spying and PATRIOT ACT Abuses


February 18, 2006
American Civil Liberties Union

As the Debate on the US PATRIOT Act nears a finish, the battle to defend traditional Constitutional rights and liberties continues as Americans demand answers on the NSA's unwarrented spying on US citizens. Meanwhile, new photos of torture at Abu Ghraib underscore the need for a Special Prosecutor. And, the VA charges a nurse with "sedition" for an editorial criticizing George W. Bush.

http://action.aclu.org

Americans Demand Answers on NSA Spying
ACLU

WASHINGTON (February 17, 2006 ) — Sign our Demand for the Truth. Call on Congress to end the illegal spying and fully investigate the Bush Administration's illegal spying programs. Add your own comment when you sign your name, and tell Congress how you feel and why the illegal spying on Americans and abuse of power must end today.

Selected statements from supporters like you will be posted online and read live at our national town hall on February 20th.

PARTICIPATE
Join us live online next Monday, February 20 at 11:00 AM ET/8:00 AM PT for our national town hall event: Fundamental Freedoms at Risk: Spying, Secrecy and Presidential Power.

SPEAK OUT LOCALLY
Join a "Constitution Vigil" in your area. Next Wednesday, February 22nd, MoveOn.org is organizing community vigils and Bill of Rights readings across the country. Join a local vigil, or take the lead and start one yourself. Stand up that night with hundreds of American communities and send Congress and your local media a simple message:
The time to defend the Constitution is now.
The Bush Administration keeps hoping the questions will stop about illegal spying on Americans, but lawmakers, the media and the American people grow more and more determined to get to the truth behind the scandal.

The administration's abuses of power through illegal spying violate the Fourth Amendment, and the First Amendment and put our constitutional freedoms at risk.

Congress has a Constitutional obligation to serve as a check against presidential abuses of power and must demand that President Bush uphold the Constitution. Leaders on both sides of the aisle in Congress have called for real answers about the warrantless NSA spying program but we cannot expect real action unless we continue to make our voices heard.

The ACLU is taking action and you can get involved and add your voice. This Monday in Washington, D.C., we're holding a national town hall meeting to discuss illegal domestic spying, presidential power and the future of our democracy.

Panelists will include former White House counsel John W. Dean, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, among others. You can follow the event live online and submit your own questions and comments for the panel. Learn more about this live national event at: www.aclu.org/presidentialpower.

Illegal NSA surveillance on Americans is only part of a pattern of abuses that includes Pentagon spying on peaceful protestors and government surveillance of groups like Greenpeace and PETA as "terrorist organizations."

This week on ACLU.org, you can read personal statements from some of the regular American citizens swept up in the government's indiscriminate net of invasive and illegal surveillance activities. People like veteran and mother Debbie Clark, who served in the Army for eight years and is now a target of illegal Department of Defense surveillance simply for being a member of the peaceful protest group Veterans for Peace. In Ms. Clark's courageous words, when government officials are suspected of high crimes and abuses, "vigilant Americans should act."

Please raise your own voice today. Join in our Demand for the Truth. Add your name to thousands of others seeking real answers and a restoration of our fundamental protections under the Constitution. And submit a comment or a question to be read at our live national town hall event next Monday, February 20, at 11 a.m. ET.

Patriot Debate Nears Finish, But Battle Continues
The Patriot Act reauthorization debate appears to be drawing to a close after some key reformers cut a deal with the White House to reauthorize the Patriot Act without making the most needed changes to protect our privacy and freedom.

We expect a vote on this flawed Patriot Act reauthorization the week of February 27th. While the reformers were acting with good intentions, the White House has repeatedly failed to negotiate in good faith over the past several months and refused to allow modest, common sense changes that would better protect our civil liberties.

The Patriot Act should require that the federal government show that any financial or internet transactions or medical or library records they demand are about a suspected foreign terrorist or someone conspiring with a terrorist or terrorist organization.

The reauthorization bill fails to provide a meaningful right to challenge the secret court orders under Section 215 of the Patriot Act for medical, library or employment records that intrude on your privileged, private information.

The bill also fails to rein in the National Security Letter power expanded by the Patriot Act’s Section 505 which is being used to gather financial or internet transactions about tens of thousands of Americans without any individual proof of wrongdoing.

We have made significant progress over the past several months, as we were able to stop the president from getting the Patriot Act reauthorized under the radar. Instead, the entire reauthorization process has highlighted for the nation that the Patriot Act has serious flaws and we know a majority of Americans support Patriot Act reform. In fact, California has just joined seven other states and over 400 municipalities that have passed resolutions supporting reforms to restore real checks and balances to protect our civil liberties.

Even if Congress has yet to get the message, the Patriot Act debate is far from over, and the ACLU will continue to demand the restoration of the rule of law to protect our most fundamental freedoms.

New Abu Ghraib Photos Confirm Need for Independent Counsel
In response to newly released images of abuse at Abu Ghraib, the ACLU renewed its call this week for an independent investigation into widespread and systemic abuse in U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.

"We continue to see undeniable evidence that abuse and torture has been widespread and systematic, yet high level government officials have not been held accountable for creating the policies that led to these atrocities," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "We need to look up the chain of military command, because when the rule of law is not followed all of our personal freedoms are threatened. President Bush should appoint an independent counsel to uncover the full truth about the extent of the abuse and who is ultimately responsible."

The ACLU has sued the Department of Defense for withholding photographs and videos depicting abuse at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities. In September, a federal judge in New York ruled that the government must turn over the Abu Ghraib images, as well as other visual evidence of abuse, noting "the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed."

The decision is currently on appeal by the government. The ACLU does not know whether the new photos aired by the Australian "Dateline" program are the same photos being withheld by the government.

"The public has a right to know the full truth about the treatment of detainees not just in Abu Ghraib but elsewhere in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay," said ACLU attorney Amrit Singh. "Instead of continuing to deny the widespread abuse, the government must hold relevant officials accountable for this abuse."

The ACLU has been in the courts since 2003 seeking the release of evidence of abuse. To date, almost 90,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

The documents have revealed that harsh interrogation techniques were used indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, and ultimately led to cases of abuse and torture.
For more on the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit, Click Here



VA Nurse Accused of “Sedition” for Editorial Criticizing Bush

The US. Department of Veterans Affairs investigated a federal employee who published an editorial critical of the Bush administration in a local newspaper. The ACLU is demanding an explanation.

In her letter to the weekly Alibi, Laura Berg, a clinical nurse specialist, criticized the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War, noting that, "as a VA nurse working with returning… vets, I know the public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder." She urged readers to "act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit."

In September 2005, VA Information Security employees seized Berg's office computer because they claimed "government equipment was used inappropriately… during government time for drafting an editorial letter." No evidence was recovered to support that belief.

"The VA had no reason to suspect Laura Berg used government resources to produce her editorial," said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. "She signed the letter as a private individual. From all appearances, the seizure of her work computer was an act of retaliation and a hardball attempt to scare Laura into silence."

In a November 9th memorandum to Berg, Mel Hooker, Chief of Human Resource Management Service at the VA, conceded that no evidence was found implicating the use of Berg's work computer in the writing of the editorial. However, he justified the investigation by saying "the Agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition."

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