WASHINGTON DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked Congress to hold the White House in contempt for disregarding the second deadline for compliance with Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenas seeking information on the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. The original subpoenas were issued June 27th, but the White House received an extension in July and the second deadline for compliance was Monday at 2:30 p.m. The ACLU is asking Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the committee to vote to hold the offices in contempt and, if necessary, force compliance through court proceedings upon Congress’ return in September.
“Today, the people of Ohio will raise their voices for government accountability,” said Christine Link, Executive Director of the ACLU of Ohio. “No one is above the law – not the Department of Justice, not the vice president and not even the president. Repeated failure to comply with these subpoenas is a slap in the face to Congress and, by extension, those who elected them. The Senate Judiciary Committee has led admirably and now Congress has to show leadership. We deserve answers about this illegal and unconstitutional program and we’re asking Congress not to back down now.”
In the first effort of its kind, the ACLU filed a request on August 8 with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) requesting that it disclose recent legal opinions discussing the scope of the government's authority to engage in secret wiretapping of Americans. In their aggressive push to justify passing this ill-advised legislation, the administration and members of Congress made repeated and veiled references to orders issued by the FISC earlier this year. On August 17th, the court said the request was "unprecedented" and required the government to respond to the ACLU's request by August 31.
The ACLU is continuing its challenge in the courts to the president's illegal wiretapping plan. In July, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's decision declaring the NSA program unconstitutional and ruled that the ACLU's clients –scholars, journalists, and national nonprofit organizations—were not able to sue because they could not say with certainty they had been secretly wiretapped. The ACLU is currently weighing its options, including an appeal to the Supreme Court.
“Without accountability, there is nothing stopping our government from abusing its power again and again,” added Link. “For over a year and a half, our questions about this program have gone unanswered. The people of Ohio should contact their member of Congress and let it be known that not only do they want answers, they deserve them.”