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December 20, 2005

Bar Leader Questions Bush Spy Effort; Calls for Full Probe

Saying he is “troubled” by the unfolding details of a federal domestic spying program conducted without court warrants, Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor-Elect Alan M. Feldman today called for a full congressional probe of the effort which was authorized by President Bush and conducted by the National Security Agency.

“I know that we are at war with terrorism and I understand and appreciate the President’s avowed responsibility to take necessary action to protect our nation,” Feldman said. “But the rule of law cannot be ignored," he added. “It is contrary to American law to tap the phones of American citizens without authorization. This bar association cannot sit back and condone this unprecedented expansion of executive powers without Congressional and Court consent. I’m concerned about possible erosion of the rule of law and the damage this does to the delicate balance of powers inherent in the three branches of our government.”

Feldman said he supported Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s call for a full Senate investigation into the eavesdropping. "This should be a bi-partisan effort consistent with the oversight function of Congress," Feldman added. The Chancellor-Elect also noted that United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently stated that "war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens." And Feldman pointed out that a legal mechanism already exists “for obtaining court orders to conduct wiretaps.”

“The very symbol of the law -- the scales of justice -- mandates a balance in all that we do,” Feldman said. “We tip that balance at our own peril. We must be careful not to broker civil liberties in the name of security. We must take care to maintain the balance within our branches of government. No one branch should be granted unbridled authority.”

“Above all,” Feldman concluded, “we must be scrupulous in following the law and protecting the rights of citizens.”

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