Thursday, February 16, 2006

Why Gonzales Was Not Sworn In

On December 15, 2005 the New York Times reported on a secret NSA program, authorized by the Bush administration, in which the NSA was instructed to wiretap Americans without obtaining a FISA warrant.



National Security Agency Building Fort Meade, MD

New York Times
December 15, 2005

Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11,
Officials Say

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

Two days later in his Radio Address from the Roosevelt Room, in the White House, on December 17, 2005, president Bush admitted to authorizing the warrantless NSA wiretapping program.

White House

December 17, 2005

President's Radio Address

To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I'm also using constitutional authority vested in me as Commander-in-Chief.

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

George Bush's arguement for why he was authorized to order the warrantless wiretapping of Americans was that he feels that Congress gave him that power, by signing the Joint Authorization to use military force and his Constitutional powers as Commander-in-Chief. But, as late as June 9, 2005 (see June 9, 2005 quote below) George Bush was telling the country that warrants were being obtained.

On February 6, 2006 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied to the US Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings on the National Security Agency's surveillence program. This was a clear example of the US Attorney General covering-up for George Bush's illegal warrantless domestic surveillence program and is the reason why Republican's blocked Gonzales from having to be sworn in.

Washington Post
February 6, 2006
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on Wartime
Executive Power and the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Authority -Transcript of Hearings


FEINGOLD: Mr. Chairman, could I just
ask a quick clarification?

SPECTER: Senator Feingold?

FEINGOLD: Heard your judgment about whether the witness should be sworn.
What would be the distinction between this occasion and the confirmation hearing
where he was sworn?

SPECTER: The distinction is that it is the practice to swear nominees for
attorney general or nominees for the Supreme Court, or nominees for other Cabinet positions, but the attorneys general have appeared here on many occasions in the 25 years that I have been here and their might be a showing, Senator Feingold, to warrant swearing.

....
Protracted Debate
....

SPECTER: Let's not engage in protracted debate on this subject. We're not going to swear this witness, and we have the votes to stop it.

Senator Leahy?

LEAHY: Mr. Chairman, I have stated my position why I believe he should be sworn in. But I understand that you have the majority of votes.


Gonzales had two lines of defense at the hearings. First that when George Bush mentioned wiretaps and the fact that a warrant is required, during now famous quote from his speech at Kleinshans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York on April 20, 2004, he was talking about "roving wiretaps" only and that he has Constitutional authority. Here is the original quote:

White House
April 20, 2004

President Bush: Information Sharing, Patriot Act Vital to Homeland Security

“Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

Monday February 6, 2006, in his unsworn “testimony” Alberto Gonzales said that when Bush was talking about getting court orders, he meant roving wiretaps only.
This is the exchange between Senator Diane Fienstein (D-CA) and Alberto Gonzales during the Senate hearings.

Washington Post
February 6, 2006

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on Wartime
Executive Power and the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Authority - Transcript of Hearings


FEINSTEIN: Mr. Attorney General, in light of what you and the president have said in the past month, this statement appears to be false. Do you agree?

GONZALES: No, I don’t, Senator. In fact, I take great issue with your suggestion that somehow that president of the United States was not being totally forthcoming with the American people.

I have his statement, and in the sentence immediately before what you’re talking about, he said — he was referring to roving wiretaps.

And so I think anyone…

FEINSTEIN: So you’re saying that statement only relates to roving wiretaps, is that correct?

GONZALES: Senator, that discussion was about the Patriot Act. And right before he uttered those words that you’re referring to, he said, “Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talk about wiretaps, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order.”

GONZALES: So, as you know, the president is not a lawyer, but this was a discussion about the Patriot Act, this was a discussion about roving wiretaps. And I think some people are trying to take part of his statement out of context, and I think that’s unfair.

FEINSTEIN: OK, fair enough. Let me move along.

The following day Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) gave a speech on the Senate floor in which he lambasted the Bush administrations warrantless NSA warrantless wiretapping program as illegal. In this speech, Feingold reminds us of two other times that George Bush spoke about the USA PATRIOT Act, wiretaps, warrants and the Constitution.

But first, here is a link to Senator Feingold's February 7 speech:

Senator Russ Feingold's Web Site
February 7, 2006

Statement of Senator Russ Feingold: On the President’s Warrantless Wiretapping Program

This next quote is from a speech and Q&A Bush gave at Mid-States Aluminum Corporation in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, Russ Feingold's state.

White House
July 14, 2004

President’s Remarks at Ask President Bush Event

"A couple of things that are very important for you to understand about the Patriot Act. First of all, any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can’t move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.

Now, we’ve used things like roving wiretaps on drug dealers before. Roving wiretaps mean you change your cell phone. And yet, we weren’t able to use roving wiretaps on terrorists. And so what the Patriot Act said is let’s give our law enforcement the tools necessary, without abridging the Constitution of the United States, the tools necessary to defend America."

You can clearly see that Bush states wiretaps and roving wiretaps. He also said that the USA PATRIOT Act gives all the tools needed, without jeopardizing the Constitution.

The third quote is from a speech that George Bush gave at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy regarding the USA PATRIOT Act.

White House
June 9, 2005
President Discusses Patriot Act

“Law enforcement officers need a federal judge’s permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist’s phone, a federal judge’s permission to track his calls, or a federal judge’s permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S."

In this last quote Bush states that a federal judge has to "give
permission" (read warrant) to wiretap a terrorists phone, track his calls or search his property. He goes on to state that those rules are consistent with the Constitution. The federal judge that Bush is talking about is the FISA court.

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