Former Vice-President and presidential candidate Al Gore called on the Attorney-General to immediately appoint a special counsel “to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President.”
In response to a question from ABC News, Gore agreed that “President Bush’s domestic spying program” might be an impeachable offense, noting that “Article II of the impeachment charges against President Nixon was warrantless wiretapping that the President said was ‘necessary’ for national security.”
Gore spoke Monday at the invitation of the bipartisan Liberty Coalition and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy in Washington, DC. The event took place at the historic Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Gore also called for new whistleblower protection for Executive Branch staff who “report evidence of wrongdoing.”
Attorney General Gonzales has agreed to testify before Congress on the warrantless wiretaps. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has said that the Judiciary Committee will investigate next month and is reportedly skeptical “of the Bush administration’s assertions that it acted within the law.” On Sunday, Specter said he believes Bush is “wrong” in asserting that the 2001 congressional resolution authorizing retaliation against al Qaeda authorized the wiretaps.
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service, in a 41-page legal analysis released earlier this month, also questions the legality of the domestic wiretapping program.
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights are reportedly planning to file lawsuits to try to stop the warrantless domestic wiretapping program.
Gore recounted the events leading up to last month’s revelation by the New York Times that the NSA has been involved in warrantless domestic wiretapping for four years. While bemoaning the time Congressmen spend “raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials” instead of debating issues, he also lamented a rubber-stamp Congress:
I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you’re supposed to be.
Deborah White calls the speech historic, “one of the great speeches in American history.” The QandO blog notes that “there’s a lot with which libertarians can agree.” The speech was also praised by the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.
Frank James at the Chicago Tribune says the speech “demonstrated just how spicy a Washington speech can be when the person giving it has nothing left to lose.”
A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee criticized the speech: “Al Gore’s incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America. While the president works to protect Americans from terrorists, Democrats deliver no solutions of their own, only diatribes laden with inaccuracies and anger.”
My favorite quote:
Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded…
[I]f the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President’s attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.”
Gore was supposed to have been introduced, via satellite feed, by former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA). Barr left Congress in 2003; he was “a former House manager in the impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton” and is “an outspoken critic of the effect the Bush Administration’s anti-terror policies are having on civil liberties.”
This article first appeared at
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