The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hear from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today regarding the administration conducting warrantless domestic spying. I am hoping that I can listen to the testimony today. In particular, I am interested in hearing Senator Russ Feingold’s questions of the Attorney General. It was Feingold that pressed Gonzales on this very issue during his confirmation hearing.
During that January 6, 2005 hearing Feingold asked specifically if the President has the authority to “authorize violations of the criminal law when they are duly enacted statutes simply because he is commander in chief.” Gonzales clearly tried to duck the question by saying that it was “hypothetical”. Although it must have been like pulling teeth, Gonzales finally stated, “it’s not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.” Now we know that at that very time of his confirmation hearing, Gonzales knew that the President was authorizing this illegal spying on American citizens.
Near the end of last year’s Feingold/Gonzales exchange, Russ asked the Attorney General if he would “commit to notify Congress if the president makes this type of decision and not wait two years until a memo is leaked about it.” To that Gonzales responded, “I will commit to advise the Congress as soon as I legally can, yes, sir.”
Can someone explain to me why Gonzales cannot be charged with lying to Congress for these things? He clearly knew about the domestic spying that Bush had authorized, yet at the same time he said that it was not the President’s policy to “authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.” The FISA law is very clear. No domestic spying without warrants. They conducted operations without these warrants. That is in “contravention to our criminal statutes.” Gonzales knew that they were doing this at the time of his testimony and in my opinion lied to Congress.
Feingold really called this one. In hindsight, he asked all of the right questions. Senator Feingold has since sent a letter to the Attorney General about his apparent “contradictions” in which he asks Gonzales to be prepared for some very tough questions.
There is no one better to press the Attorney General and this Administration. Give him hell Russ!