By Jenny Beth Martin and Hilary O.
Time for the government to stop spying on Americans
It’s not often that the NAACP and the tea party agree on much of anything, but we have come together over a
common concern to fight for a common cause: We want our government to stop spying on innocent Americans.
The government claims the legal authority to collect records of your personal, private conversations with your
significant other, spouse, doctor, pastor or lawyer – all without a warrant or any evidence of wrongdoing. It can turn
on your computer’s webcam in your own home without your knowing, provided it gets a warrant from the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret court that approves 99.96 of the government’s requests.
Our intelligence agencies say they need these powers to combat terrorism, but many of these powers are used
routinely to collect information about innocent Americans. And very often, it is racial and ethnic minority groups who
are disproportionately targeted.
One of the most infamous examples was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO, a series of covert and often
illegal operations in the 1960s to discredit and smear civil rights and political groups the agency deemed subversive,
including the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. In the
name of national security, the bureau planted illegal wiretaps, sabotaged communications and conducted warrantless
physical searches and whjle committing a variety of other violations.
The surveillance tools the National Security Agency possesses today – being able to monitor Internet searches and
call records – makes the age of hotel-room bugs seem quaint. And experience shows us how threatening unchecked
government surveillance can be damaging to the very core of our democracy.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that the Patriot Act did not in fact permit the government to collect
and store the phone records of all Americans, as it has been doing. Rather than stop it, however, the court noted that
Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision the NSA cites to justify its call records program, is set to expire June 1.
So the court decided to let Congress determine whether Section 215 should die, be revised or extended without
Last week, the House passed the USA Freedom Act, a bipartisan bill that would prohibit the bulk collection of phone
records. But while the bill would stop the government from collecting phone records en masse, it would not stop it
from accessing those records from telephone companies so long as it gets approval the FISC. And it doesn’t address
government spying abuses authorized by other surveillance authorities.
Clearly, this reform is not enough. We need a broad overhaul of the government’s surveillance powers, and the
people of North Carolina know this. A recent bipartisan poll commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union found
that more than 80 percent of voters in the state find it concerning that the government is collecting and storing the
personal information of Americans.
As the USA Freedom Act moves to the Senate this week, we urge Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis to pull the plug
and let Section 215 expire. By wiping the slate clean, our country can have the much-needed debate about how
much of our liberty and privacy we are willing to give up in the name of domestic surveillance.
Be it members of the NAACP or, more recently, members of the tea party, the fact is our government has too often,
during the most challenging of times, targeted those who wish to struggle for positive change or demand
accountability in the name of the common man or the underserved. We have all been on the receiving end of
government overreach and other abuses, and this is why we stand united today.
Jenny Beth Martin is the co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. Hilary O. Shelton is the
director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy.
ACLU, Tea Party take on federal spying: ‘They’ve gone too far’
By Julian Hattem – 05/19/15 12:09 PM EDT
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a top Tea Party organization are teaming up to pressure lawmakers
to oppose renewing controversial parts of the Patriot Act that undergird National Security Agency (NSA) operations.
The strange bedfellows of the ACLU and Tea Party Patriots will be running joint TV advertisements in Washington,
D.C., as well as the early presidential primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa.
Jenny Beth Martin and Jeremy Rosen 9:57 p.m. CDT May 19,
ACLU, Tea Party agree: Urge government to stop spying
Believe it or not, the Tea Party Patriots and the American Civil Liberties Union have
some priorities in common. For one thing, we agree on the need for significant
reforms to curtail government surveillance authorities, like some of those included in
the Patriot Act.
The government claims that current law authorizes it to collect and store records
about intimate, personal conversations between husbands and wives, doctors and patients, lawyers and clients, and
pastors and congregants — all communications that should be, and we all assume are, private.
The worst part? The government routinely collects this information without a warrant or even any suspicion that a
person is linked to terrorism. Our local police must get a warrant from a judge in order to search our homes or
property. Why is it not the same when the NSA and the federal government want to seize and store intimate details
about our private lives? What happened to our Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and
Jeremy Rosen (Photo: Submitted)
Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals was asked similar questions, and
found that the government’s collection and storage of millions of telephone records
under Section 215 of the Patriot Act was unauthorized and illegal, despite the
government’s claims that it was following the law.
While this decision was a major victory for the privacy rights of everyday, innocent
Iowans, Congress must take steps to roll back the laws that the government is using
to infringe on our liberty and privacy.
Several provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire on June 1, and Congress is
debating whether or not to reauthorize them. Congress should let these provisions
expire, and begin a real conversation about necessary reforms to protect the
freedom of innocent Americans.
The Tea Party Patriots and the ACLU are by no means alone in this fight. Those in favor of at least some type of
reform of government surveillance programs include presidential hopefuls Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton,
organizations like the National Rifle Association and Amnesty International, advocates such as Grover Norquist and
Newt Gingrich, Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, and even President Barack Obama. Has
such a diverse group ever agreed on anything?
One person noticeably missing here is Iowa’s senior U.S. senator, Chuck Grassley, who — as chairman of the
Senate Judiciary Committee — has an important voice in this debate.
In previous years, Grassley has supported the full reauthorization of the Patriot Act. But now, with the chorus of
reform advocates growing nearly every day, we believe he should reconsider his support, vote against any
reauthorization, and add his voice to those fighting to uphold the Fourth Amendment and protect Iowans from
unconstitutional violations of privacy. Indeed, this is what most Iowans want. A poll commissioned by the ACLU and
conducted jointly in late April by a bipartisan pair of research firms, found two thirds of Iowans believe that the Patriot
Act should not be reauthorized in its current form.
We urge Senator Grassley, and all Iowans, to work to rein in government surveillance and pass meaningful reform.
Jenny Beth Martin is the President and Co-Founder of Tea Party Patriots.
Jeremy Rosen is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.