By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 6, 2006; 5:09 PM
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told a Senate committee today that a controversial surveillance program is "lawful in all respects" and that President Bush launched it under authority from both the Constitution and U.S. law.
But he said he could not give the panel "absolute assurance" that no one other than people linked to terrorists are being spied upon.
GOI: Oh that's comforting.
Gonzales cautioned against congressional efforts to deal with the controversy through legislation, warning that this could inhibit the president's ability to protect the country and result in leaks of confidential information.
GOI: The terrorists aren't THAT stupid! I'm sure that they know that we would love to tap into their conversations. The difference is that there is a legal way to tap their convo's and an illegal way. Bush Co. decided to go the illegal way and blaze their own trail burning right through the Constitution.
Some Republicans on the committee expressed doubts about Gonzales's assertions of presidential authority to order the secret surveillance program.
The committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), told Gonzales he was "skeptical" of the claim that Congress authorized the eavesdropping program when it approved a resolution on the use of force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said it was "very dangerous" to make such claims, which he argued could make it more difficult for presidents in the future to obtain use-of-force resolutions from Congress.
The committee's top Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), told Gonzales, "We all agree that if you have al Qaeda terrorists calling, we should be wiretapping them." However, he added, "instead of doing what the president has the authority to do legally, he decided to do it illegally without safeguards."
Leahy also noted that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978 to regulate eavesdropping on foreign agents in the United States, has been amended five times since the Sept. 11 attacks "to give it more flexibility."
The hearing got off to a rocky start when Specter said he was allowing Gonzales to testify without taking an oath. Democrats objected, and the GOP majority on the panel voted to uphold the chairman's decision.
GOI: O.k., WTF!
Why the HELL wasn't Gonzales sworn in? I think taking an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth would be in order. Especially given the contraversial nature of this issue that has implications of whether or not a President of the United States of America broke the law and is continueing to break the law!
He [Gonzales] cited presidents Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt and noted that Gen. George Washington authorized the interception of letters during the Revolutionary War.
GOI: Um, Alberto. Gen. George Washington didn't even have a Constitution to abide by when he authorized the interception of letters during the Revolutionary War. Scary over-sight of history by our countries main lawyer! YIKES!!
Sen. Graham told the attorney general, "This statutory force resolution argument that you're making is very dangerous in terms of its application for the future." He added, "When I voted for it, I never envisioned that I was giving to this president or any other president the ability to go around FISA carte blanche."
Graham said that "it would be harder for the next president to get a force resolution if we take this too far. And the exceptions may be a mile long."
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