ACLU’s Top Ten Myths About the Illegal NSA Spying on Americans


Top Ten Myths About the Illegal NSA Spying on Americans

From the ACLU

(Download a printable version of the full
ACLU report
. Download a printable version of this summary.)

Watch ACLU’s National Town Hall Meeting on Spying, Secrecy, and Presidential
Power, held June 11, here.

MYTH: This is merely a "terrorist surveillance program."
REALITY: When there is evidence a person may be a terrorist,
both the criminal code and intelligence laws already authorize eavesdropping.
This illegal program, however, allows electronic monitoring without any showing
to a court that the person being spied upon in this country is a suspected terrorist.

MYTH: The program is legal.
REALITY: The program violates the Fourth Amendment and Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and will chill free speech.

MYTH: The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)
allows this.
REALITY: The resolution about using force in Afghanistan doesn’t
mention wiretaps and doesn’t apply domestically, but FISA does–it requires
a court order.

MYTH: The president has authority as commander in chief of
the military to spy on Americans without any court oversight.
REALITY: The Supreme Court recently found the administration’s
claim of unlimited commander in chief powers during war to be an unacceptable
effort to "condense power into a single branch of government," contrary
to the Constitution’s checks and balances.

MYTH: The president has the power to say what the law is.
REALITY: The courts have this power under our system of government,
and no person is above the law, not even the president, or the rule of law means

MYTH: These warrantless wiretaps could never happen to you.
REALITY: Without court oversight, there is no way to ensure
innocent people’s everyday communications are not monitored or catalogued by
the NSA or other agencies.

This illegal program could have prevented the 9/11 attacks.
REALITY: This is utter manipulation. Before 9/11, the federal
government had gathered intelligence, without illegal NSA spying, about the
looming attacks and at least two of the terrorists who perpetrated them, but
failed to act.

MYTH: This illegal program has saved thousands of lives.
REALITY: Because the program is secret the administration can
assert anything it wants and then claim the need for secrecy excuses its failure
to document these claims, let alone reveal all the times the program distracted
intelligence agents with dead ends that wasted resources and trampled individual

MYTH: FISA takes too long.
REALITY: FISA allows wiretaps to begin immediately in emergencies,
with three days afterward to go to court. Even without an emergency, FISA orders
can be approved very quickly and FISA judges are available at all hours.

MYTH: Only liberals disagree with the president about the
REALITY: The serious concerns that have been raised transcend
party labels and reflect genuine and widespread worries about the lack of checks
on the president’s claim of unlimited power to illegally spy on Americans without
any independent oversight.

Source for this and important supporting material:


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