Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Did AGAG Mislead the Senate?

Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold dispatched a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (AGAG) yesterday asking him to explain what could be a rather troublesome comment from Gonzales' confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, 2005.

This from today's WaPo writeup: "At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

"Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was 'not the policy or the agenda of this president' to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing."

As it turns out, of course, the president had ordered warrantless wiretapping waaaay back in 2001, almost four years before Gonzales declared the possibility hypothetical. I have to wonder just what Gonzales was thinking in answering that question though, since for Feingold, the situation at that point was still hypothetical (his staff "developed the 2005 questions based on privacy advocates' concerns about broad interpretations of executive power," says the Post).

I agree with Senator Feingold that the Attorney General has some explaining to do. While I am in favor of all steps taken to combat the terrorist threat, those steps must be taken within the existing rule of law, not at the arbitrary whim of the executive branch.


At 8:35 PM, Blogger Phil S said...

The answer of course is that AGAG doesn't believe there is any law forbidding the President to wiretap "because it's a national security" issue. AGAG sees the Constitution different than most of us!!!


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