Jan 20, 2006- "To Begin with, Bush Isn't King," Rep. Markey and Carol Rose Op-ed, Boston Herald

Rep. Markey and Carol Rose co-authored the following op-ed entitled "“Let it begin here!” in the January 20, 2006 edition of the Boston Herald:

“Let it begin here!”

With these words, Massachusetts Revolutionary War hero Capt. John Parker rallied his men on the Lexington Green. Parker’s words once again rang true when hundreds of citizens gathered in Lexington earlier this month for the first in a series of emergency town hall meetings that are taking place across the state. The topic of these meetings is the threat to citizens’ privacy created by the Bush administration’s secret surveillance program.

The larger question for all Americans: Will we preserve and defend the rule of law in the face of a president who asserts that he is above it?

The need to restrain the powers of the executive branch was anticipated by our Founders. They crafted a system of checks and balances to ensure that no single branch of government would accrue excessive power. British authorities had used “general warrants” to conduct broad searches into the homes of colonists, especially in Massachusetts. To secure our privacy, the founders added the Fourth Amendment which guarantees the right of Americans to be free from government searches without probable cause.

The issue arose again some 30 years ago, when outraged citizens prompted lawmakers to control domestic spying after it was revealed that the FBI had spied on Martin Luther King and other Americans involved in the anti-war and civil rights movements. Congress passed laws that expressly prohibited government spying on American citizens without a warrant. In an effort to prevent the new law from undermining foreign intelligence operations, Congress also adopted the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, establishing a secret FISA court to oversee the use of wiretaps against agents of a foreign power.

The FISA court has not posed a hurdle for intelligence officials seeking to thwart terrorist attacks. Initiated in 1979, the secret court has received more than 19,000 requests for electronic surveillance and physical searches, and has rejected only four of those requests. In 2004, the FISA court approved 1,758 surveillance applications, an all-time high, without denying a single one. The FISA process is fast — the government can even begin the surveillance without authorization and submit an affidavit to the FISA court for approval retroactively.

That President Bush finds the legally required judicial review of the FISA court too limiting came as a shock to American citizens. While campaigning to expand the Patriot Act, President Bush had assured citizens that any time wiretapping took place, a warrant had been obtained. That simply wasn’t true. To the contrary, the Bush administration approved expansive domestic spying powers for the National Security Agency.

Unfortunately, this administration’s circumvention of the FISA court fits into a broader pattern.

Americans have recently learned that the Pentagon is spying and maintaining files on Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. As a result of ACLU Freedom of Information Act requests, we also know that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces have been investigating activists who work on issues ranging from affirmative action to environmental rights.

We must restore Americans’ trust in government. Congress must hold hearings immediately to examine how laws pertaining to domestic spying have been used or circumvented by presidential directive. We need to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate independently whether crimes have been committed.

It is time for Americans to remember how this democracy was created and raise the alarm. It is more than our right. It’s our patriotic duty.