Tuesday, January 17, 2006

White House Accuses Al Gore Of Hypocrisy, Gore Pushs Back

First Al Gore gave a speech yesterday declaring that a special counsel must be appointed to look into the Bush administration's use of the NSA spying program:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Vice President Al Gore called on Monday for an independent counsel to investigate whether President George W. Bush broke the law in authorizing domestic eavesdropping without court approval.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales plans to testify in Senate hearings, expected next month, to give the administration's legal justification for the secret domestic eavesdropping operation.

"A special counsel should be immediately appointed by the attorney general to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the president," Gore said in a speech to The American Constitution Society and The Liberty Coalition.


He accused Bush of breaking the law for not getting court approval for the National Security Agency eavesdropping operation on communications such as phone calls and e-mail coming into and going out of the United States of people suspected of terrorism ties.

"We still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently," Gore said.

"A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government," he said.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it illegal to spy on U.S. citizens in the United States without the approval of a special, secret court.

Then Abu Gonzales and the White House struck back, calling Al Gore a hypocrite for criticizing the Bush administration over the NSA spying program (via the Associated Press):

The White House accused former Vice President Al Gore of hypocrisy Tuesday for his assertion that President Bush broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval.

"If Al Gore is going to be the voice of the Democrats on national security matters, we welcome it," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a swipe at the Democrat, who lost the 2000 election to Bush.

Gore, in a speech Monday, called for an independent investigation of the administration program that he says broke the law by listening in — without warrants — on Americans suspected of talking with terrorists abroad.

Gore called the program, authorized by President Bush, "a threat to the very structure of our government" and charged that the administration acted without congressional authority and made a "direct assault" on a federal court set up to authorize requests to eavesdrop on Americans.


McClellan said the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches, and he cited an FBI search of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge. He said Clinton's deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, had testified before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants.

"I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds," McClellan said of Gore.

But at the time that of the Ames search in 1993 and when Gorelick testified a year later, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act required warrants for electronic surveillance for intelligence purposes, but did not cover physical searches. The law was changed to cover physical searches in 1995 under legislation that Clinton supported and signed.

Gore said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should name a special counsel to investigate the program, saying Gonzales had an "obvious conflict of interest" as a member of the Bush Cabinet as well as the nation's top law enforcement officer.

Gonzales, who has agreed to testify publicly at a Senate hearing on the program, defended the surveillance on cable news talk shows Monday night.

"This program has been reviewed carefully by lawyers at the Department of Justice and other agencies," Gonzales said on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes." "We firmly believe that this program is perfectly lawful. The president has the legal authority to authorize these kinds of programs."

Gore said there is still much to learn about the domestic surveillance program, but that he already has drawn a conclusion about its legality.

"What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently," he said.

Bush has pointed to a congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that authorized him to use force in the fight against terrorism as allowing him to order the program.

Gore, however, contended that Bush failed to convince Congress to support a domestic spying program, so he "secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother."

He said the spying program must be considered along with other administration actions as a constitutional power grab by the president. Gore cited imprisoning American citizens without charges in terrorism cases, mistreatment of prisoners — including torture — and seizure of individuals in foreign countries and delivering them to autocratic regimes "infamous for the cruelty of their techniques."

Finally Gore noted in a statement that Abu Gonzales' criticisms of Gore were riddled with inaccuracies and deceptions and continued his call for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the program (via Rawstory.com):

Former Vice President Al Gore: "The Administration's response to my speech illustrates perfectly the need for a special counsel to review the legality of the NSA wiretapping program.

The Attorney General is making a political defense of the President without even addressing the substantive legal questions that have so troubled millions of Americans in both political parties.

There are two problems with the Attorney General's effort to focus attention on the past instead of the present Administration's behavior. First, as others have thoroughly documented, his charges are factually wrong. Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton/Gore Administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law.

Second, the Attorney General's attempt to cite a previous administration's activity as precedent for theirs - even though factually wrong - ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal.

The issue, simply put, is that for more than four years, the executive branch has been wiretapping many thousands of American citizens without warrants in direct contradiction of American law. It is clearly wrong and disrespectful to the American people to allow a close political associate of the president to be in charge of reviewing serious charges against him.

The country needs a full and independent investigation into the facts and legality of the present Administration's program."

It seems pretty plain to me:

The Bush administration engaged in a program of illegal surveillance of Americans. According to the NY Times, this program swamped the FBI with useless information and uncovered not one domestic Al Qaeda terrorist plot that wasn't already known from other sources. The administration, however, claims the program has saved thousands of lives. Obviously we need to get to the bottom of this issue, which is why Gore is right about the need for a special counsel to look into this matter (since it's clear Abu Gonzales is implicated up to his beady little eyeballs in this case.) So I suggest Gonzales appoint...

...this guy to look into the matter.

I'd feel pretty good about that kind of investigation. I know that it would be on the up-and-up and that Fitzgerald would follow the investigation to wherever it was going.

So let's get to it.

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