Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In Preview Of Senate Testimony, Gonzales Provides Fact-Challenged Defense Of Domestic Spying Program To CNN

In a preview of the testimony he plans to give to the Senate next month, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke with CNN's Larry King yesterday, and relied on empty Bush Administration spin to defend its warrantless domestic spying program.

The administration would do well to stick to facts, rather than trying to recreate history in order to defend the program, which circumvented rules that say the National Security Agency must obtain a warrant before proceeding. That includes Gonzales, who President Bush said personally approved the surveillance program, when Gonzales was White House Counsel.

It's one thing for the administration to defend the illegal program by saying that a post-9/11 world demands that the Bush White House have extraordinary surveillance capability. Unfortunately, the Bush White House desperately wants to spin Americans into accepting their fact-challenged misrepresentations as the truth.

Gonzales, referring to a speech given Monday by former Vice President Al Gore, said this:

GONZALES: I would say that with respect to comments by the former vice president it’s my understanding that during the Clinton administration there was activity regarding the physical searches without warrants, Aldrich Ames as an example. I can also say that it’s my understanding that the deputy attorney general testified before Congress that the president does have the inherent authority under the Constitution to engage in physical searches without a warrant and so those would certainly seem to be inconsistent with what the former vice president was saying today.

Despite what Gonzales is implying, the Clinton administration never violated FISA and never claimed they could violate FISA. Here’s why:

-- Prior to 1995, FISA did not cover physical searches. (With Clinton’s signature, the law was expanded to cover physical searches in 1995.) The search of Aldrich Ames home occurred in 1993. It did not violate FISA.

-- Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick testified in 1994 that the President could conduct warrantless physical searches, before FISA required physical searches to be conducted pursuant to a warrant. Gorelick was arguing that the President could conduct warrantless physical searches in the absence of Congressional action. At no time did she suggest that, after Congress required the President to obtain a warrant, the executive branch could ignore the law, nor is there any evidence the Clinton administration failed to comply with FISA.

Gonzales will likely offer this same empty spin next month. Will senators be prepared to fact-check? Or will Americans be left with a "debate" -- presented as left vs. right, but in reality right vs. wrong?

***

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, speaking Tuesday, offered the same spin lines.

MCCLELLAN: In terms of Al Gore's comments, I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds. It was the Clinton administration that used warrantless physical searches. An example is what they did in the case of Aldrich Ames. And it was the Deputy Attorney General under the Clinton administration that testified before Congress and said, "First, the Department of Justice believes and the case law supports that the President has inherent authority" -- inherent authority -- "to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General."

But amazingly, some in the mainstream media are paying attention to the facts.

As the Associated Press reported Tuesday: "But at the time 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."

Huzzah! The press can fact-check administration spin! This doesn't have to be a partisan debate. It can just simply be a case of pointing out that the administration is wrong.

If we can all agree that it was wrong from President Clinton to have an affair with Monica Lewinsky, and furthermore wrong to lie about it thereafter, then why can't we all admit it was wrong for President Bush to sidestep FISA, and furthermore wrong for his administration to misrepresent the facts thereafter?

***

To be sure, Gonzales and McClellan aren't the only ones trying to spin the truth.

Last month, the Republican National Committee issued a press release that falsely alleged that Presidents Carter and Clinton had violated FISA. To make the claim, the RNC used sentence fragments to take presidential executive orders out of context.

The talking points got a lot of play in the conservative media -- most notably in columns by the National Review's Byron York. Listen to conservative talk radio today, and the limited coverage of domestic spying will no doubt include the RNC talking points.

But fortunately, some in the media care about facts. For example, the Washington Post debunked the RNC's misleading claims:

"The RNC quoted fragments of Clinton's Executive Order 12949, authorizing the attorney general to "approve physical searches, without a court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information," and Carter's Executive Order 12139, authorizing the attorney general to 'approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order.' The Clinton and Carter orders, which were published, permitted warrantless spying only on foreigners who are not protected by the Constitution. Bush's secret directive permitted the NSA to eavesdrop on the overseas calls of U.S. citizens and permanent residents."

You have to ask yourself -- how weak is the Bush Administration's argument if it so heavily relies on misrepresentations of fact?

10 Comments:

Anonymous Gen. Patton said...

With Democrats like Former NJ Gov. Jim McGreevy, who put his gay lover in charge of the Garden State's homeland security division, America needs all the help it can get fighting terrorists. If it means bugging the phones of a few brown people, so be it. The wire taps a legal, warranted and necessary. If your against them, your against everything this country stands for.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Patton really deserve a serious response?

1:42 PM  
Anonymous napi21 said...

What's with the damn politically correct "fact challenged" BS?
HAve we eliminated the word LIE from the Emglish language???

2:46 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Lie means intent.

Fact-challenged means the argument lacks facts.

JABBS can prove the latter. Others can suggest the former.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Brotherjohn said...

EACH of the earlier Exec. Orders Repubs cite SPECIFICALLY SAY that they must comply with FISA. And this specifically meant NO spying on U.S. citizens inside the U.S. Their Orders applied to FOREIGN intel gathered OUTSIDE the U.S. And the Ames physical search was done at a time (1993) when this was still legal. FISA wasn't amended to rule that out until 1995.

How can our Attorney General get in front of the nation and so blatantly LIE?!?

THIS is who we have to uphold the law?

2:47 PM  
Anonymous ash said...

"Does Patton deserve a serious response?"

Of course not, anon at 1:42. Nor even a humorous one. But it is interesting to note one typo and two misspellings - of the same word - or should that be called a grammatical error?

For whatever the literacy factor is worth. To me, it's very revealing.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Gen. Patton said...

I don't give a rat's ass about gramatical errors, Ash. I speak from the heart and tell it like it is. If my comments contain a few errors so be it. What we need is more Gen. Patton and less patton leather, honey. FYI: Ash, you phone is tapped.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our country could ask for nothing better than to reveal the true nature of the Bush Administration.
The FISA hearings present a big opportunity for the Democrats to expose once and for all the lying lengths the Bush Administration will go to support its extremist anti-constitutional actions.
But will they stand up to the challenge? Will they fight with the facts?
If the Bush Administration would lie for the FISA program, why is it such a stretch to believe that it didn't do the same thing to win support for Iraq?
As JABBS has suggested,
will the MSM see the FISA lies for what they are, or will it CONTINUE to largely cower behind Bush spin and create a smokescreen through framing everything into a right verses left debate?
Gen. Patton above lost all credibility upon spewing ignorance and racism.

5:31 PM  
Blogger don dzikowski said...

The fact that Gonzales and McClellan, read Bush, lied to the American people with this false story about Clinton using illegal warrantless searches should be FRONT PAGE news in every newspaper today.
I am confident the Washington D.C. press corps will confront McClellan with the known facts pointed out by the Associated Press and others debunking the Clinton spying story at the next press conference, since McClellan openly touted the lie the other day in a press conference as a snipe at Gore's speech.
He then also characterized lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other Americans challenging the warrantless spy program as "frivolous."
As JABBS indicates, the only thing frivolous appears to be the Right wing talking point defense Gonzales has adapted as a legal strategy to defend the program.
Of course, with a Bush-appointed extremists like Alito on the Supreme Court, we have reason to be concerned.
Here's another argument: McClellan and others within the Bush Administration repeatedly refer to the warrantless spying program as "extremely limited" against "small numbers of people" with "known associations to Al Quada."
For one, this info directly contradicts the New York Times reports, where NSA insiders affirm the spying occurred on hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, many of which, it was found had no connection to terrorism whatsoever.
For two, if the Bush Administration claim is true and the warrantless spying did only occur on a limited numbers of people, THEN WHY THE HELL DIDN'T THEY SIMPLY OBEY THE LAW AND OBTAIN THE WARRANTS FROM THE FISA COURT?
How far with the Bush Administration go.
Soon, you will see the McClellan Bunch place Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the framers of the Constitution into the same "far left fringes of the liberal party" as Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous ash said...

Guess what, Patton, darling: so is you's. Rough language? Yeah, I can do that too, Mr. Brawn instead of Brain.

2:40 PM  

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