Monday, December 19, 2005

In Light Of Bush Surveillance Program Revelation, Did Gonzales Perjure Himself During Confirmation Hearings?

According to President Bush's radio address Saturday, as White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales personally approved Bush's program for warrantless domestic wiretaps.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires a warrant or court order to conduct electronic surveillance.

During his confirmation hearings for Attorney General in January 2005, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) asked Gonzales about this precise issue.

In his answer, Gonzales contradicts himself, first saying it would depend on "the national interest that the president may have to consider," then firmly saying the "president is not above the law."

It's possible the first answer may be the basis of conservative spin as Bush's warrant-less surveillance program gets discussed in the days and weeks to come.

Here's the transcript from Gonzales' confirmation hearing:

FEINGOLD: I -- Judge Gonzales, let me ask a broader question. I'm asking you whether in general the president has the constitutional authority, does he at least in theory have the authority to authorize violations of the criminal law under duly enacted statutes simply because he's commander in chief? Does he -- does he have that power?

GONZALES: Senator, I — you — in my judgment, you phrase it sort of a hypothetical situation. I would have to know what — what is the — what is the national interest that the president may have to consider. What I’m saying is, it is impossible to me, based upon the question as you’ve presented it to me, to answer that question. I can say, is that there is a presumption of constitutionality with respect to any statute passed by Congress. I will take an oath to defend the statutes. And to the extent that there is a decision made to ignore a statute, I consider that a very significant decision, and one that I would personally be involved with, I commit to you on that, and one we will take with a great deal of care and seriousness.

FEINGOLD: Well, that sounds to me like the president still remains above the law.

GONZALES: No, sir.

FEINGOLD: Again, you know, if this is something where — where it — you take a good look at it, you give a presumption that the president ought to follow the law, that — you know, that’s — to me, that’s not good enough under our system of government.

GONZALES: Senator, if I might respond to that, the president is not above the law. Of course he’s not above the law. But he has an obligation, too. He takes an oath as well. And if Congress passes a law that is unconstitutional, there is a practice and a tradition recognized by presidents of both parties that he may elect to decide not to enforce that law. Now, I think that that would be ...

FEINGOLD: I recognize that, and I tried to make that distinction, Judge, between electing not to enforce as opposed to affirmatively telling people they can do certain things in contravention of the law.

GONZALES: Senator, this president is not -- I -- it is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.

***

Given his role in circumventing FISA, did Gonzales commit perjury during his testimony?

6 Comments:

Anonymous texpatriot2004 said...

I bet he did

10:04 PM  
Anonymous C_U_L8R said...

Well then, Gonzo broke the law too by approving all these illegal wiretaps.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Skink said...

I wonder how many other mines the Dems laid for Gonzales.

Bush will now accidentally incriminate everybody.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous spindrifter said...

Unfortunately, it is not likely anyone would find this perjury. Perjury involves intentionally making a false statement under oath. He is giving interpretations or opinions. It would be perjury if he intentionally answered no we have not eavesdropped on anyone's communications anywhere on or off this world, when in fact they had.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous onenote said...

they would argue no because they don't think the actions taken are in contravention of criminal statutes because they read into those statutes an exception for the president to exercise certain authority notwithstanding the statute. A too clever argument? Maybe, but probably enough to avoid any charge of perjury. (By the way, was he giving sworn testimony at the time?)

onenote

10:06 PM  
Anonymous gratuitous said...

So who's going to investigate him?

I'm sure Bush will delegate this to the highest attorney in the government: "Alberto, did you perjure yourself?" "No SIR, Mr. President." "Well, all right then."

The subsequent speech practically writes itself, along with some snide words for people who would impugn the integrity of the Attorney General.

10:06 PM  

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