This afternoon, President Bush signed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a piece of legislation that will needlessly expand the government’s ability to spy on Americans and ensure that the country never learns the full extent of Bush’s unlawful wiretapping. There were many good Senators who showed courage in standing up to the White House and for the Constitution, but not enough.
A few hours after Bush’s signing, The Nation joined with the ACLU in a lawsuit filed in the US District Court (Southern District) of New York challenging the constitutionality of the Act. The Nation is suing on behalf of itself, our staff and two of our contributing writers–Chris Hedges and Naomi Klein. The defendants are the Attorney General of the United States, Michael Mukasey; John M. “Mike” McConnell, Director of National Intelligence; and Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Security Service. We filed suit along with a coalition of other plaintiffs including Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, Global Fund for Women, PEN American Center, Washington Office on Latin America, Service Employees International Union and several private attorneys.
Why are we joining this lawsuit?
For 143 years, The Nation has believed that an essential element of patriotism is the unyielding defense of civil liberties. Immediately after 9/11, as a fog of national security enveloped official Washington and the mainstream media enlisted in the Administration’s war, it was clear to us that the need for an independent and critical press seemed never more urgent. The speedy passage of the repressive Patriot Act, with scarcely a murmur of dissent in Congress, and the establishment of military tribunals were troubling signs that a wartime crackdown on civil liberties was under way and called for vigorous opposition. Criticizing government policy in wartime is a not a path to popularity. Our patriotism was questioned, we were called “anti-American.” Yet, as it has at different times in our country’s turbulent history, The Nation marched to a different drummer and stood firm in defense of our core constitutional values–believing then, as we do now, that it is possible to defend this country from terrorists while also protecting the rights and freedoms that define our nation.
Today, we are proud to join with the ACLU and other plaintiffs in this lawsuit in the belief that the government ‘s surveillance activities should respect, not trample, the Constitution. Our history as America’s oldest weekly journal of opinion has taught us that surveillance powers can easily become a threat to a free and open society.