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Letter on Warrantless Wiretapping
September 20, 2006
On behalf of the 1,050 congregations that make up the Unitarian Universalist Association, I urge you to oppose S.2453, the “National Security Surveillance Act of 2006.” This bill would forever authorize the White House’s program of secret, warrantless surveillance and preempt any full, thorough investigation of the program; it must not be approved.
S.2453 would forever legalize the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, and allow any future presidents to initiate similar secret surveillance programs without court oversight. It would also sweep all pending court cases challenging the program into the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, which was not set up to rule on the legality of programs, and does not allow an adversarial process. Most alarmingly, it would make real warrants optional, and represents a blow to our government’s separation of powers. US District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor recently ruled the warrantless wiretapping program unconstitutional and illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In light of this ruling, it is especially critical that Congress fully investigate this program, rather than passing legislation which would effectively authorize many of its aspects.
American Unitarians and Universalists have a long history of working to protect free speech, civil liberties, and other civil rights; this is because liberty is the core both of our Unitarian Universalist faith and of our American democracy. Without sufficient protection of civil liberties, a true democratic and free society does not exist. Acceptance of a secretive surveillance program without a thorough investigation would mean that we accept as normal an atmosphere of government secrecy, distrust, and ambiguous legality, and would represent a step backward on our quest to create a peaceful, free and just society. As people of faith, we believe that trust is necessary for us to develop our faith and to live in a democracy.
Again, I urge you to further investigate the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program of conducting warrantless electronic surveillance on citizens and non-citizens inside the United States and to oppose S. 2453 and similar legislation which would authorize this program. We believe that respect for civil liberties and human rights strengthen any nation. We have faith that America can maintain its security without, by succumbing to fear, surrendering the liberties won through the sacrifices of past generations.
Robert C. Keithan, Director