Attorney General Says Al Gore's Criticism of Domestic Surveillance Inconsistent With Clinton Policy
Former Vice President Al Gore gestures
while addressing the American Constitution Society on the threat to the Constitution from President Bush's domestic wiretap policy, Monday, Jan. 16, 2006 at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washigton. Gore asserted Monday that President Bush "repeatedly and persistently" broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant.
WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Al Gore called Monday for an independent investigation of President Bush's domestic spying program, contending the president "repeatedly and insistently" broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the administration's actions and said Gore's criticism is inconsistent with Clinton administration policy.
On CNN's "Larry King Live," Gonzales said, "it's my understanding that during the Clinton administration there was activity regarding physical searches without warrants."
Gonzales said he sees no need for a special counsel to investigate the National Security Administration surveillance operation because, "what I can tell you is that from the very beginning, from its inception this program has been carefully reviewed by the lawyers at the Department of Justice and other lawyers within the administration and we firmly believe that the president does have the legal authority" to gather intelligence in a time of war.
Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr.'s national holiday, Gore was interrupted repeatedly by applause as he called the anti-terrorism program "a threat to the very structure of our government."
The former vice president said Gonzales should name a special counsel to investigate the program, citing the attorney general's "obvious conflict of interest" as a member of the Bush Cabinet as well as the nation's top law enforcement officer.
The man who lost the 2000 presidential election to Bush charged that the administration acted without congressional authority and made a "direct assault" on a special federal court that authorizes requests to eavesdrop on Americans. One judge on the court resigned last month, voicing concerns about the National Security Agency's surveillance of e-mails and phone calls.
A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Tracey Schmitt, attacked Gore's comments shortly after his address.
"Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America," Schmitt said. "While the president works to protect Americans from terrorists, Democrats deliver no solutions of their own, only diatribes laden with inaccuracies and anger. "
Gore's speech was sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and The Liberty Coalition, two organizations that have expressed concern about the policy.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that two other organizations -- the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights -- planned to file lawsuits against the Bush administration alleging the NSA program illegally monitored defense lawyers, journalists and scholars with ties to the Middle East.
The ACLU will file it's suit in federal court in Detroit and the Center for Constitutional Rights plans to file in New York.
Gonzales has agreed to testify publicly at a Senate hearing on the program. He defended the surveillance on cable new 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, speaking at DAR Constitution Hall, said his concerns are especially important on the King holiday because the slain civil rights leader was among thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government.
King, as a foremost civil rights activist in the 1950s and '60s, had his telephone conversations wiretapped by the FBI, which kept a file on him and thousands of other civil rights and anti-Vietnam war activists.
Gore said there is still much to learn about the domestic surveillance program, but 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," the Democrat maintained.
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 had a different view, contending 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."
Gore didn't only criticize government officials. Referring to news reports that private telecommunications companies have provided the Bush administration with access to private information on Americans, Gore said any company that did so should immediately end its complicity in the program.
So it's ok for the Clinton/Gore administration to wiretap, but if it's to Protect our National Security and the people of this Country AFTER we had been attacked it isnt ok for Bush?
Gore is never going to get over his loss in 2000.