10 November 2006

Email I received today from Senator Arlen Specter

Dear Friend :

Thank you for contacting me regarding the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). I appreciate your concern on this important matter.

Our nation has always been concerned with the need to protect our citizens from harm while preserving the freedom and privacy we all cherish. The need for this often-difficult balance became even more acute after the attacks of September 11, 2001. We now realize we face a cruel and brutal enemy who will stop at nothing to terrorize our country. We know this enemy has infiltrated our nation in the past and has worked from within to attack us. Therefore, we must work together to ensure this never happens again.

One method the President has chosen to combat this constant threat is the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). I recognize Pennsylvanians hold a wide range of views on this program, and I know many citizens will not agree on whether this program is necessary. However, I believe there are several issues surrounding the TSP on which we can all agree and I have introduced a bill to address these issues. I have introduced S.2453, the National Security Surveillance Act, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 13, 2006.

First, we know the TSP will be subjected to multiple courtroom challenges. On August 17, 2006, a federal district court in Michigan ruled that the program violates the Constitution. Dozens of other challenges are pending, and the courts hearing these other cases may or may not agree with the Michigan court's decision. We are facing the risk of a host of inconsistent standards and decisions regarding the same program. My bill avoids this inconsistency and instead promotes uniformity and predictability by directing cases involving the TSP and any similar programs to the FISA courts.

Second, we know the FISA courts can be trusted to maintain the confidentiality of classified information relating to the TSP. In the twenty-six years since the FISA courts were established, they have never compromised the highly sensitive information with which they are entrusted. Although it is vital the judges who rule on the TSP's constitutionality know the details of the program, it is also vital the program's details are disclosed only to judges who will properly maintain confidentiality. We can trust the FISA court judges with this task.

Finally, we all value our constitutional system of checks and balances. My bill re-asserts the importance of this system by providing a strong judicial check on executive authority. The bill allows the federal judges of the FISA courts to rule on the constitutionality of the TSP and any similar surveillance programs. Since our nation's founding, we have trusted our courts to protect citizens' privacy and to enforce our constitutional rights. My bill allows our judiciary to continue in this trusted role.

Thank you again for expressing your concerns on the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The views of my constituents are very important to me, and I appreciate you keeping me informed of your views. Should you have any further questions regarding this issue or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit my website at http://www.specter.senate.gov/.

Arlen Specter

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