Joint Letter to House Committee on Judiciary re: Domestic Surveillance

June 4, 2002
Joint Letter to Chairman Sensensenbrenenr and Ranking Member Conyers
Attorney General Guidelines on Domestic Surveillance

PDF version available here.

June 4, 2002

Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC 20515

Representative John Conyers
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Sensenbrenner and Representative Conyers:

We write to you on behalf of a broad range of organizations across the country about the decision of the Attorney General to loosen the guidelines that restrict the surveillance of religious and political organizations in the United States. This decision raises matters of Constitutional authority that require immediate Congressional attention. We do not believe that the Attorney General has the legal authority to pursue domestic spying. We urge you to conduct oversight hearings on the new guidelines.

We are particularly concerned about elements of the guidelines that appear to give the FBI the authority to search through electronic databases without satisfying any legal standard or requiring any judicial review. Such an approach to police authority in the United States is directly contrary to the First and Fourth Amendment and the system of checks and balances established by our form of government.

We are also concerned that the changes authorize unchecked surveillance of lawful religious and political activity, and that such surveillance will be targeted against Arab-Americans, Muslim and immigrants among others.

We urge you to convene a public hearing with the Attorney General so that the following issues may be addressed:

  • How will the changes proposed by the Attorney General impact the First Amendment freedoms of political and religious organizations in the United States?
  • What is the legal basis for the Attorney General’s decision and how does this decision compare with his current authority?
  • What means of Congressional oversight will be created to prevent abuse and what means of public reporting will be established to ensure that the public is fully informed about these activities?
  • For what period of time does the Attorney General anticipate the FBI will operate with this authority?

    We would be pleased to work with you and your staff on this important matter.


    Marc Rotenberg
    Executive Director
    Electronic Privacy Information Center

    Nan Aron
    Alliance for Justice

    Kareem Shora
    Legal Advisor
    American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

    Laura W. Murphy
    Director Washington Office
    American Civil Liberties Union

    Paula Johnson
    American Law Teachers

    Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director
    American Library Association Washington Office

    Tom DeWeese
    American Policy Center

    Amy Isaacs
    National Director, Americans for Democratic Action

    Majed Jafari
    Director, Government Relations
    Arab American Institute

    Margaret Fung
    Executive Director
    Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

    Kent Pollock
    Executive Director
    California First Amendment Coalition

    Nancy Chang
    Staff Attorney
    Center for Constitutional Rights

    James X. Dempsey
    Deputy Director
    Center for Democracy and Technology

    Jeff Chester
    Executive Director
    Center for Digital Democracy

    Kate Martin
    Center for National Security Studies

    Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney
    Christian Defense Coalition

    Ken McEldowney
    Executive Director
    Consumer Action

    Jason Erb
    Director, Governmental Relations
    Council on American-Islamic Relations

    Lee Tien
    Senior Staff Attorney
    Electronic Frontier Foundation

    Steven Aftergood
    Project Director
    Federation of American Scientists

    Kit Gage
    First Amendment Foundation and NCARL

    Florence C. Kimball
    Legislative Education Secretary
    Friends Committee on National Legislation

    David J. Theroux
    Founder and President
    The Independent Institute

    Mark Graham
    Institute for Global Communication

    Elisa Massimino
    Director, Washington office
    Lawyers Committee for Human Rights

    J. Daryl Byler, Director
    Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington Office

    James Landrith
    Editor & Publisher
    The Multiracial Activist

    Julian Bond

    Kit Gage
    National Coordinator
    National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom

    Susan Grant
    Vice President for Public Policy
    National Consumers League

    Heidi Boghosian
    National Lawyers Guild

    Dan Kesselbrenner
    National Immigration Project
    National Lawyers Guild

    Audrie Krause

    Morton H. Halperin
    Open Society Policy Center

    Ralph G. Neas
    People For the American Way

    Deborah Pierce
    Executive Director

    Beth Givens
    Executive Director
    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

    Manjit Singh
    Executive Director
    Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART)

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