Saturday, February 16, 2008

Congressional Progressives Demand Classified Access to Domestic Spying Program

WASHINGTON, DC - February 15 - The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-9) and Lynn Woolsey (CA-6), today demanded that President Bush provide an opportunity for all Members of Congress to have the same access to classified documents regarding his Administrations domestic spying program. In a letter sent today, the Co-Chairs called on the President to provide House Members with classified access to documents pertaining to the program, access which to this point has been denied. The letter comes as the debate in the House over an extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act continues to heat up, and follows a letter signed by 29 House and Senate Members that the Progressives sent to the President last week telling him that they will oppose any legislation that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies who participated in the Administration’s warrantless program. Lee and Woolsey issued the following statements:

“It is imperative that the Bush administration give Members of Congress access to these documents before we take any further votes on this issue,” said Congresswoman Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “After keeping us in the dark about the true extent of this program, it is time for the Bush administration to come clean and level with lawmakers who are concerned about its impact on civil liberties.”

“It’s far past time that President Bush realizes that sometimes he can’t bluster and scare his way into getting what he wants,” Woolsey said. “As a co-equal branch of government this Congress has a responsibility to carefully weigh any decision regarding updating our intelligence laws, and the Congress simply cannot do that without access to the full details of what we’re voting on. The President’s ‘promise’ of this program’s legality is worthless – we are not a rubber stamp. Therefore, we want all Members of Congress to have access to the information regarding this program, and the role that telecom firms played in it.”

Text of Letter

President George Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
February 14, 2008

Mr. President;

Your Administration recently granted select House Members access to documents related to the scope and prior conduct of telecommunications companies involved in the expanded warrantless domestic surveillance program. As Co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), we are writing to request that every interested House Member be provided with an opportunity to review, in compliance with standards for reviewing classified material, these documents.

Since we are at a critical legislative juncture in voting to provide blanket immunity to dozens of telecommunications companies for their complicity in this secretive and substantially expanded surveillance program, we are now requesting that every Member be provided with immediate access to these documents. Providing blanket retroactive legal immunity to corporations that may have willfully violated fundamental privacy rights of millions of Americans sets a very dangerous precedent.

Additionally, your public acknowledgement of the existence of these warrantless surveillance programs demonstrates that this program is not a covert operation, and the legislative branch's access to documents about these companies' activities should no longer be restricted. As a co-equal branch, Congress must have an opportunity to learn the full extent of these companies' actions before making this decision.

This is simply a fundamental matter of protecting the constitutionally mandated civil liberties of every American and we hope that we can expect your full cooperation in this endeavor. We are committed to protecting the privacy of innocent Americans while providing the necessary tools to safeguard our country.

We look forward to your prompt compliance with our request.


Barbara Lee Lynn Woolsey

Member of Congress


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