The times they are a-changing.
Today, thousands of ACLU members and other activists are descending upon the nation's capital for an historic rally and Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice. We are there to make our voices heard: the Bush administration's relentless assault upon our nation's laws, values and civil liberties must end.
The ACLU is teaming up with dedicated, high profile human rights groups including Amnesty International, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture for this event. More than 50 organizations are participating, representing more than four million Americans. Thousands of people are traveling from every state to participate in this historic day to rally and lobby members of Congress. The ACLU and other groups have collected more than 170,000 petition signatures which we'll hand-deliver to Congress to send a clear message: We the people say it's time for Congress to hold this administration accountable for its actions and restore our constitutional rights.
A national tragedy on September 11 was used by the Bush administration to advance a highly ideological agenda and seize greater powers. Guantánamo. Illegal spying on citizens. The destruction of habeas corpus rights of U.S. prisoners to challenge their detention. Extraordinary rendition. Torture. These are just some of the un-American and unacceptable policies this administration has foisted upon us as part of the so-called "war on terror." These are the policies that we're protesting today and that the ACLU has been fighting tooth and nail in the courts, the legislatures, and through our advocacy efforts.
We are beginning to see signs of progress. It's certainly encouraging when we hear about "Gitmo-mentum" within the administration to close the notorious prison camp, a "rights-free" zone on the southern tip of Cuba where hundreds languish. We've locked people up-some who could be innocent-without due process and without hope. It is not right, nor just, nor American.
Recent news reports say that top officials in the administration object to the legal black hole known as Guantánamo. Even the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense have acknowledged that Guantánamo's continued existence undercuts American foreign policy around the world and will be a stain on America's legacy. Republicans like John McCain and Colin Powell urge its closure. But, alas, we continue to hear of "deep divisions" remaining over Guantánamo within the administration and reasons for delaying the shutdown.
We cannot wait any longer, and we cannot trust this administration to do the right thing about Guantánamo or anything else. This is an administration that has displayed a cynical and chronic disregard for the rule of law. It's an administration bent on broadening executive power at the expense of the courts and Congress, subverting our system of checks and balances. It has used 9/11 to weaken our laws and rights or subvert them outright with policies like the NSA's illegal spying program and the Military Commissions Act, which denies detainees the right to habeas corpus.
Those in power have unlawfully construed congressional grants of authority to allow the CIA and the military to engage in blatantly illegal conduct. They have disparaged and dismissed long-standing laws of war, put in place by civilized nations. They have invaded our privacy and have been complicit in torture. This administration -- supposedly the impartial guardian of our laws -- has shown profound disregard for the very laws that are the foundation of our democracy.
And Congress is also to blame. Their silence, timidity and complicity have allowed the Bush ideologues to seize those powers, while they look the other way.
We must put this Congress on the spot now, not hand off these problems to the next administration. We must fight for legislation to restore our civil liberties. It's time to shut down Guantánamo and transfer those detainees who should remain in custody to civilian courts or military courts martial, where they can be tried before impartial arbiters. It's time to restore integrity to our laws -- restore habeas corpus, stop the illegal spying, stop the torture -- and recapture our moral legitimacy as a great democracy.
And that's what today -- our Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice -- is all about.
Today we are seizing momentum as never before and saying "enough." We act because, as citizens, we not only have the right to hold our government accountable, we have the responsibility to uphold our American values. Please visit www.juneaction.org today, watch our rally live online, and learn what else you can do. I hope you will join us.