Gonzales Apparently Lied to Congress over Wiretapping

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(APN) ATLANTA  – US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appears to have lied about the President’s approval of illegal domestic wiretapping, a letter from US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) to Mr. Gonzales suggests.

In Gonzales’s confirmation hearings several months ago, Gonzales advised Feingold, “It is not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in circumvention of our criminal statutes,” according to the letter, released to Atlanta Progressive News today.  The conversation was in response to a direct line of questioning of Gonzales by Feingold over Gonzales’s views on the ability of the President to approve illegal wiretapping, and more broadly, disregard Congressional laws either actively or through lack of enforcement.

Recently, however, it has come to light that the President has indeed, to quote Mr. Gonzales, “had the policy and the agenda of authorizing actions that would be in circumvention of our criminal statutes.”

But there’s more. Gonzales also specifically promised Feingold and the US Senate, to notify Congress if the President makes such a decision “as soon as I reasonably can, yes, Sir.”

Gonzales has said recently that he knew about the wiretapping, has attempted to justify it, and that he and the President knew of the likely opposition of Congress to Bush’s policy of domestic wiretapping.  The policy had been initially proposed in a draft of legislation which was scrapped as soon as it was leaked to an interest group.  Also, Gonzales and President Bush conferred on possibly approaching Congress for the authority to conduct erstwhile illegal wiretapping, and decided it would be unwise to seek such authority from Congress.

“It now appears that the Attorney General was not being straight with the Judiciary Committee and he has some explaining to do,” US Senator Feingold said in a prepared statement.

Senator Feingold–a possible contender for President of the United States in 2008–also had some good questions for Mr. Gonzales, which he issued in advance of upcoming Senate hearings on Bush’s domestic wiretapping.

First, Feingold has asked Gonzales to define “the legal standard that the government has used to decide whose telephone calls and emails to intercept within the United States under the NSA program; how that standard compares to the FISA standard; who has been making those determinations; and what oversight and training the Department has provided those individuals on the legal requirements of the program, if any.”

Second, Feingold has asked for “the contemporaneous legal advice provided by the Justice Department, or by you [Gonzales] as White House Counsel, throughout the course of the program, and how it may differ from the Administration’s current legal justifications.” Feingold wrote that any contemporaneous, written, legal analyses had already been requested by US Senator Leahy (D-VT) and others, and should be provided in advance of the upcoming Senate hearings on wiretapping.

Third, Feingold asked, What are “the limits, if any, to the Administration’s legal theory that the President has the authority either under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force or as Commander in Chief to violate criminal laws of the United States. What other statutes or treaties are being or might be violated under this legal theory? Would this legal theory permit surveillance of communications by U.S. citizens solely within the United States or the assassination of U.S. citizens within the United States? If not, why not?”

President Bush also appears to have been dishonest during April 20, 2004, remarks in New York about the Patriot Act. “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,” President Bush said, according to the White House website.

Matthew Cardinale is Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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