Open Letter Also Calls for National Security Whistleblower Protection
By Brad Friedman on 2/8/2006, 11:31pm PT  

George W. Bush's conservative flank continues to show signs of crumbling.

A Libertarian-leaning coalition, comprised of many conservative Republican groups, is now joining the chorus of Americans calling for a full Congressional investigation into George W. Bush's warrantless government eavesdropping program, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

In an open letter obtained from The Liberty Coalition, to be released publicly tomorrow, the group --- which features such noted true conservatives as former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) and the Republican Liberty Caucus --- is calling on Congress to hold comprehensive hearings into the warrantless NSA domestic wiretapping program. As well, the group calls on the Dept. of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter and stresses the need for Whistleblower protections to allow employees of national security agencies to come forward to testify to Congress about criminal behavior in their respective agencies.

The letter says Bush's program threatens the ability of America to prosecute terrorists due to "tainted evidence obtained in possible violation of federal law." As well, it asks "what limit is there on any future president to secretly re-write our civil and criminal laws at will" if constitutional transgressions, such as those admitted to by the Bush Administration, continue to go unaddressed.

Michael Ostrolenk, the group's co-founder, was most recently seen introducing Vice President Al Gore before a January 16th speech which was highly critical of Bush's program, describing it as in criminal violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In his address, Gore said, "The President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently." (Highlights of the speech available here.)

FISA requires that the NSA receive a court order for wiretaps of U.S. citizens on American soil. Such warrants may be requested for up to 72 hours after the eavesdropping takes place. Ostrolenk's impromptu introduction was in place of Barr whose live video link to the event failed at the last minute. The Liberty Coalition was a co-sponsor of the event.

Several "non-Conservative" groups, including Democrats.com and the non-partisan VelvetRevolution.us are also members of the coalition which describes itself as a "transpartisan network dedicated to protecting civil liberties and privacy rights". Additional groups from all across the American political spectrum have been joining of late. (DISCLOSURE: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VelvetRevolution.us which is a signatory to the letter.)

The complete Liberty Coalition letter (WORD version here), beginning with a quote from the "Federalist Papers" by James Madison, follows...

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many…. may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." America must always maintain our constitution with the deepest vigilance. A determined effort is needed now to protect our most sacred liberties and to ensure that our Constitutional democracy will be preserved for our children and grandchildren." --- James Madison Federalist Papers 47

Perhaps the most universal attribute of government is the drive to broaden its own authority. History and human nature teach us that leaders from all parties will push to expand their power at the expense of liberty. This is why the United States Constitution firmly established a Bill of Rights, a clear separation of powers, and a system of checks and balances to protect the freedom of Americans. In a world of tyranny and despotism, these three principles of democratic government have made America a land of liberty for over 200 years.

In light of the recent confirmation that the President approved domestic surveillance of American citizens without court authority and thereby possibly violated the Fourth Amendment, overstepped the constitutional power of his office, violated a federal statute passed by Congress and pushed aside the Judiciary check on executive power, we have reached a critical moment in our nation's history.

These actions, however possibly well intentioned, could now threaten the ability of our nation to prosecute terrorists and criminals with tainted evidence obtained in possible violation of federal law. But the larger issue is that if such constitutional violations are allowed to go unaddressed now, what limit is there on any future president to secretly re-write our civil and criminal laws at will? The notion that presidents have impunity to break the law is foreign to democracy as it is the "right" of kings, not presidents. The idea that any president can unilaterally rewrite the law is contrary to the Constitution's separation of powers that gives the legislature the power to write laws and the President the power to veto them or sign them and then requires the president to faithfully execute the law.

The Liberty Coalition, a transpartisan network dedicated to protecting civil liberties and privacy rights, strongly urges leaders in Washington to promptly take the following steps to safeguard Constitutional law:

• Hold comprehensive, public and non-partisan Congressional hearings on the warrantless domestic spying programs and determine who permitted these activities to go forward, without regard to political party.

• Ensure that the Department of Justice appoints a special counsel to independently investigate these actions. It is critical to determine whether federal laws were broken, and if this occurred, and to hold accountable those who violated the law.

• Provide firm protections for whistleblowers who come forward during these investigations. A national security worker's highest duty is to the Constitution, and none should have to sacrifice their liberty or security to do what is right for the nation in reporting violations of the law.

Sincerely,

Republican Liberty Caucus
American Policy Center
Democrats.com
Fairfax County Privacy Council
Rutherford Institute
Former Congressman Bob Barr
Multiracial Activists
Cyber Privacy Project
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation
Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances
National Lawyers Guild/National Office
Consumer Action
First Amendment Foundation
NCARL, National Committee Against Repressive Legislation
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)
National Security Whistleblower Coalition
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Velvet Revolution (VR)