ACLU, Common Cause Thank House of Representatives for Standing Up to the President

Liz Rose, (202) 675-2312

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

Today the American Civil Liberties Union and Common Cause thanked the House of Representatives for standing up to President Bush and refusing to be railroaded into considering the Senate’s controversial FISA bill. The president had demanded the House rush through a just-passed Senate bill, which would allow the government to spy on the overseas phone calls and emails of innocent Americans without a warrant – in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The bill would also give retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that gave the government private information about American citizens.

Both organizations say the House Democratic leadership, in particular Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), deserve credit for their commitment to the constitutional rights of all Americans.

“The House leadership has shown real courage by standing up to the president in the face of misleading attacks and intimidation, and they must be commended,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Everybody – including the president – knows America will still be safe once the Protect America Act expires: that’s why he was willing to veto an extension. We hope the leadership ensures that any future FISA bill protects Americans’ privacy rights and does not give immunity to the telecoms that broke the law.”

In August, Congress passed the controversial Protect America Act under similar threats from the White House. That law, which expires February 16, allows for the massive, untargeted collection of Americans’ communications without a court order. The House passed a new bill in November that would better protect Americans’ privacy and does not give retroactive immunity to the telecoms.

“We thank Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership for their commitment to the privacy rights of Americans,” said Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause. “Innocent Americans who have had their rights violated by the telecoms deserve their day in court. If these companies did nothing wrong, then they have nothing to fear.”