The Department of Justice yesterday released a 42-page defense of President Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program.
But the defense is really just a formal and expanded version of answers Attorney General Alberto Gonzales provided at a press conference last month . And no doubt, it will be the backbone of Gonzales' testimony before the Senate next month.
Senators should be prepared — the administration is using significant leaps in logic to justify the their circumvension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which says that the National Security Agency must obtain a warrant before conducting surveillance.
Want to understand the hoops Gonzales has to jump through to justify the illegal program? Here's the administration's arguments, in his own words:
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
The administration is well aware of FISA.
GONZALES: (T)he Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides — requires a court order before engaging in this kind of surveillance that I've just discussed and the President announced on Saturday, unless there is somehow — there is — unless otherwise authorized by statute or by Congress. That's what the law requires.
So then ...
ADMINISTRATION LEAP OF LOGIC
GONZALES: Our position is, is that the authorization to use force, which was passed by the Congress in the days following September 11th, constitutes that other authorization, that other statute by Congress, to engage in this kind of signals intelligence.
Gonzales admits that "there's nothing in the authorization to use force that specifically mentions electronic surveillance." He also admits: "We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be — that was not something we could likely get."
Seems pretty cut and dry. Gonzales builds a convincing case against the administration's program. But Gonzales — who President Bush said personally approved the surveillance program, when Gonzales was White House Counsel — isn't relying on facts.