Alert from: The Bill of Rights Defense Committee

The “Protect America Act” (PAA) makes the whole world a target for surveillance – and that includes you.

If you are outraged at the vast new spying powers that Congress granted to the President, now is the time to act. Two new bills in the House would roll back some or all of the new powers granted by the PAA. (Find information on the two bills here.)

* The FISA Modernization Act (H.R. 3782), introduced by Rep. Rush Holt, would repeal the PAA and restore the requirement for individualized warrants for wiretapping Americans.
* The RESTORE Act (H.R. 3773), introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers and House Intelligence Committee Chair Sylvestre Reyes, would repeal the PAA and add significant judicial and congressional oversight. While it would not reinstate the individualized warrant requirement before Americans’ international communications could be seized in the US, it would limit surveillance so that it could not be used whenever the government simply claims “national security.”

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee approved H.R. 3773 and added more civil liberties protections while rejecting proposals to make the PAA permanent and to immunize past illegal warrantless wiretapping of Americans. No votes on H.R. 3782 have been scheduled. We expect the full House to vote on the Conyers-Reyes bill as early as next Wednesday, October 17.

But President Bush wants Congress to make the PAA permanent, and he has made it clear that he will not sign a bill unless it grants retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that enabled the government to wiretap their customers here in the US without the warrants required by law.

Don’t let that happen!

THIS WEEK, tell your representative to protect Fourth Amendment guarantees against warrantless searches:

* Repeal the Protect America Act. The PAA legalizes warrantless wiretapping of U.S. residents, which the Bush Administration secretly began in 2001, and violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Fourth Amendment. (H.R. 3773 and 3782 would repeal the PAA.)
* Restore the requirement for individualized warrants for wiretapping of U.S. communications and email. U.S. Intelligence agencies cannot oversee themselves. The judicial branch has a necessary role in preventing abuses of power. (H.R. 3782 would restore individualized warrants for any wiretap of U.S. calls or emails, whereas H.R. 3773 would permit the wiretapping of some international calls and emails of Americans without individual warrants.)
* No immunity for telecommunications companies that broke the law by permitting the government to conduct surveillance of their customers’ phone and email records. To grant those companies retroactive immunity condones presidents and private industry collaborating to ransack the public trust. (Neither H.R. 3782 nor H.R. 3773 currently grants immunity, but administration allies may introduce amendments that do so.)
* Let the public see the text of Congress’s bills BEFORE they’re passed. Fourth Amendment rights to privacy are among our fundamental and inalienable rights. The specific text of any bill that may affect these rights must go before the American people for comment.
* Follow the will of this community by upholding the Bill of Rights! [The town of ______, or ______ county, or the state of ______] has passed a resolution opposing laws that violate the Bill of Rights. We expect that you will follow the resolve of our community. (Click here for a list of resolutions.)

Join with people and organizations across the country by phoning your representative to urge him or her to stand up for the Fourth Amendment. Look up your rep’s direct telephone number or dial the Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121, and ask the operator to connect you.!

Thank you for all you do.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee:

Hope Marston, West Region Organizer
Ben Grosscup, East Region Organizer
Michael Berg, Field Organizer for Southeast
Nancy Talanian, Director
Susan Heitker, Administrator


Show the New BORDC Video, FBI Unbound: How National Security Letters Violate Our Privacy

Order BORDC’s new 26-minute DVD, FBI Unbound: How National Security Letters Violate Our Privacy, which explores the repercussions of the FBI’s power to demand hundreds of thousands of Americans’ private records without any oversight by a court or by Congress within the broader context of increasing unwarranted government spying and surveillance.

BORDC plans a broad, national release around October 26th, the sixth anniversary of the USA PATRIOT Act. We encourage public showings, broadcasts on public access cable TV, and house parties. Watch the trailer and find supporting materials, including a discussion guide, flyers, a transcript, a copy of the National Security Letter issued to Library Connection, and information on how to order a DVD at The video may also be viewed on YouTube in two parts.