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.
Al Gore has already jumped out in front of any legal review of the President’s actions by declaring the whole thing illegal. The details of this program, outside of a few generalities acknowledged by the President, are still a secret. We don’t know who was spied on. We don’t know what was monitored. Calling for a legal review of the program makes perfect sense. Declaring the program illegal before that investigation has even been started and before all the facts emerge is the action of a man who cares more about making political hay out of this issue than upholding the law.
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.
Nobody is claiming that the Clinton/Gore administration broke the law. What is being pointed out is that the Clinton/Gore administration authorized an intelligence gathering program very similar in method and scope to that authorized by President Bush. This program is called “Echelon” and it includes a keyword computer search of nearly every electonic communication made by Americans.
Gore would like us to believe that he holds the moral high ground in this debate, but he doesn’t. The Clinton administration maintained that it had the authority to order warrantless searches, including physical searches, for the purposes of gathering foreign intelligence. CIA spy Aldrich Ames was on the receiving end of one of these searches and could certainly testify to the Clinton administration’s broad use of these powers.
The press release continues…
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.
Again I’d point out that the details of the program authorized by President Bush remain confidential. What basis does Gore have for saying “thousands of American citizens” have been monitored without warrants? There is no evidence to suggest that any citizens were monitored. The President has acknowledged that people inside the U.S. have had their communications monitored, but that does not neccessarily mean citizens.
Gore seems to be just making some of this stuff up, which is an entirely irresponsible thing for a former VP to do in a time of war. I applaud Gore for his call for a review of this NSA program and would like to see it performed sooner rather than later so that our intelligence agents can get back to their jobs without all this political distraction.
What I can’t stomach is Gore’s partisan point-scoring.
It might fire up leftist partisans, but it brings little to the debate over this controversy.
I believe that President Bush would be exonnerated by such a review owing to the fact that his actions (what we know of them thus far) are well within the scope of his Article II war powers. Given that he had the approval of the Justice Department, reviewed the program every 45 days and kept the appropriate Congressional leaders from both parties appraised of the program I really don’t see much room for law breaking. And if comes out (or is decided by a court) that Bush did break the law then he did so with the approval of members of Congress (both Democrat and Republican) as well.
(via Flickertail Journal)
You can read more from Rob Port at SayAnythingBlog.com