Today, WOLA joined several other organizations and individuals as a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, or FAA, which President Bush signed today.
WOLA has joined the lawsuit because the FAA will compromise our ability to fulfill our fundamental mission: to monitor and advocate for human rights in Latin America.
This law allows the government to monitor the international phone and Email communications of U.S. citizens without a warrant and without oversight by the courts or Congress. It infringes flagrantly on the right to privacy as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
The law jeopardizes WOLA’s ability to receive candid and timely information from organizations and people in Latin America. Our colleagues in the region — human rights activists, social justice advocates and others — frequently challenge their own governments’ policies and face hostility from entrenched interests. Some of those people have been wrongly called “terrorists” by their political opponents or governments. If our colleagues believe that their communications with WOLA can be gathered by U.S. government authorities without oversight or accountability, and then shared with their home government, their trust in the confidentiality that is vital to our work will be seriously eroded.
For decades, the United States has been one of the centers of global human rights advocacy. The FAA imperils that historic role. It gives the federal government sweeping powers to eavesdrop on the communications of people and organizations that, like WOLA, work for justice and peaceful change abroad and for putting human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy.
WOLA believes the federal government should have the tools it needs to protect Americans from terrorism. But those tools must be subject to oversight from the courts and Congress, as the original FISA law of 1978 stipulated. By stripping away that oversight, the government undermines nothing less than the Constitution.
Roger Atwood, Director of Communications, [email protected], (202)797-2171