New address: 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409.
Religious Organizations Condemn Warrantless Wiretapping
June 23, 2006
Dear Senator Specter and Senator Leahy:
As a matter of faith and conscience, we, the undersigned
religious organizations, 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. In the 1970s, the
Church Committee released findings of widespread, unregulated surveillance by
multiple intelligence agencies. Among the Church Committee’s findings was:
“Domestic intelligence activity has threatened and undermined the constitutional
rights of Americans to free speech, association, and privacy… It has done so
primarily because the constitutional system for checking abuse of power has not
been applied.”That system led Congress to pass the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978 to be the “exclusive means” by which electronic
surveillance may be conducted. In part, FISA was approved in response to
revelations that former President Nixon was using “national security” claims to
spy on American citizens. Designed to oversee surveillance of agents of foreign
powers, FISA intentionally sets a low standard of proof for obtaining a warrant.
Additionally, if in an emergency the government needs to begin electronic
surveillance of a suspect before it can obtain a warrant, FISA allows the
government to initiate surveillance of a target for up to 72 hours before
applying for a warrant. The question as to why, given such broad powers under
FISA, the government needs to ignore the laws passed by Congress requires – at
minimum – further investigation.Our faith traditions cherish liberty,
respect for every person and the freedom to speak out without fear of
retribution. We are equally committed to our nation’s security and do not find
these two goals mutually exclusive. Indeed, respect for civil liberties and
human rights strengthens any nation.We believe that to allow the NSA
program to continue without full understanding of its scope and impact violates
basic American values and endangers civil liberties protections enshrined in the
Fourth Amendment. It also accepts as normal an atmosphere of government secrecy,
distrust, and ambiguous legality—representing a step backward on our quest to
create a just, moral, and equitable society. We urge you to do
everything in your power to ensure that the NSA wiretapping program is fully and
transparently investigated in a non-partisan fashion. Upon completion of such an
investigation, we hope that should any individuals or entities be identified as
breaking our nation’s laws, they will be held accountable, and that Congress
will consider legislation aimed both at preventing further abuses and at
addressing any shortcomings that are revealed in our intelligence system. Our
nation needs a system that can react quickly to real terrorist threats, but that
does not place unchecked power in the hands of any one individual or government
agency. We have faith that America can maintain its security without
being driven by fear to surrender the liberties secured through the sacrifices
of past generations. Equally, our collective conscience compels us to oppose
such reversals.In faith,African American Ministers in Action
American Friends Service CommitteeFriends Committee on National
Legislation Presbyterian Church (USA)Jewish Reconstructionist
FederationThe Interfaith AllianceThe Rabbinical Assembly United
Church of Christ, Justice and Witness MinistriesUnited Methodist Church
General Board of Church and SocietyUnitarian Universalist Association of
CongregationsUnion for Reform Judaismcc: Members of the Senate
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Last updated on Tuesday, August 23, 2011.
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