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.
Republican Liberty Caucus
American Policy Center
Fairfax County Privacy Council
Former Congressman Bob Barr
Cyber Privacy Project
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation
Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances
National Lawyers Guild/National Office
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)