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Seventy two in Congress join battle against wiretaps

John Byrne
Published: Thursday May 11, 2006

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Seventy two members of Congress filed papers late Wednesday seeking to end President George W. Bush's warrantless NSA eavesdropping program, RAW STORY has learned.

The filing came just before a report Thursday in USA Today which revealed that the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program had collected call records on tens of millions of Americans through agreements with AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

It also comes a day after lawyers looking into the NSA program abruptly closed their probe after the Bush Administration refused to grant them clearances.

The 71 Democrats and one independent filed an amicus brief in two federal courts reviewing challenges to the warrantless wiretapping program in Detroit and New York, joining the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Both suits demand the program be stopped.

Top Democrats did not sign the call. Neither House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) nor House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) have joined the brief.

"It is very disturbing that, on the same day we learn that the NSA has been secretly collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans, we also learn that the Department of Justice has abruptly cancelled its investigation into the Agency's warrantless wiretapping program," said Rep. John Conyers, the ranking House Judiciary Democrat who is spearheading the initiative. "These developments clearly point to the urgent need for oversight and review of this program. Congress has failed to provide this critical oversight which has led us to the courts."

The brief argues that Congress never authorized the warrantless spying program, neither through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 nor the post-9/11 authorization for use of military force. It details the legislative history of both and asks the court to halt the program immediately.

"As our brief makes clear, this Congress dealt with this issue authoritatively almost 30 years ago - warrantless spying on American soil is flatly prohibited," Conyers added.

Conyers cited the Church Committee -- a special senatorial committee in the 1970s that gave Congress more oversight of the intelligence community in the wake of President Nixon's Watergate scandal.

The following 72 Representatives are amici in the brief. The brief can be read here.

John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan
Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii
Gary Ackerman of New York
Brian Baird of Washington
Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
Howard Berman of California
Shelley Berkley of Nevada
Earl Blumenauer of Oregon
Rick Boucher of Virginia
Corrine Brown of Florida
Michael Capuano of Massachusetts
Julia Carson of Indiana
William Lacy Clay of Missouri
Artur Davis of Alabama
Peter DeFazio of Oregon
Diana DeGette of Colorado
William Delahunt of Massachusetts
Sam Farr of California
Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania
Barney Frank of Massachusetts
Al Green of Texas
Raul Grijalva of Arizona
Maurice Hinchey of New York
Ruben Hinojosa of Texas
Michael Honda of California
Jesse Jackson, Jr. of Illinois
Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas
Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas
Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio
Dale E. Kildee of Michigan
Carolyn C. Kilpatrick of Michigan
Dennis Kucinich of Ohio
Tom Lantos of California
Barbara Lee of California
Zoe Lofgren of California
John Lewis of Georgia
Carolyn Maloney of New York
Edward Markey of Massachusetts
Jim McDermott of Washington
James McGovern of Massachusetts
Martin Meehan of Massachusetts
George Miller of California
James Moran of Virginia
Jerrold Nadler of New York
Eleanor Holmes Norton of District of Columbia
James Oberstar of Minnesota
John Olver of Massachusetts
Major Owens of New York
Donald Payne of New Jersey
Charles Rangel of New York
Linda Sanchez of California
Bernard Sanders of Vermont
Janice Schakowsky of Illinois
Bobby Scott of Virginia
Jose Serrano of New York
Brad Sherman of California
Louise Slaughter of New York
Hilda Solis of California
Fortney Pete Stark of California
Bennie Thompson of Mississippi
John Tierney of Massachusetts
Tom Udall of New Mexico
Chris Van Hollen of Maryland
Debbie Wasserman Shultz of Florida
Melvin Watt of North Carolina
Maxine Waters of California
Diane Watson of California
Henry Waxman of California
Robert Wexler of Florida
Lynn Woolsey of California
David Wu of Oregon
Albert Russell Wynn of Maryland