Gore criticizes use of unwarranted domestic wiretaps

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In a forceful speech Monday, former Vice President Al Gore criticized the use of unwarranted domestic wiretaps by the National Security Agency.

Gore called the wiretapping program, which the White House insists is vital to the defense of America, "a threat to the very structure of our government" and urged the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel for investigation into the matter. He additionally recommended Congress to hold comprehensive hearings and for telecommunications companies who are assisting in the program to stop doing so, and suggested the administration is using the threat of terrorism as a means to amass power in the executive branch.

Former Vice President Al Gore

"Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march - when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?" He added, "Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles."

The Republican National Committee responded to Gore's statements, saying, "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." They continued, "While the president works to protect Americans from terrorists, Democrats deliver no solutions of their own, only diatribes laden with inaccuracies and anger."

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan also responded, saying that the Clinton administration had authorized an FBI search of double agent Aldrich Ames without a warrant. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made similar remarks earlier. Regarding Gore, McClellan said, "I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds."

Opponents of the wiretapping program say this is an inaccurate comparison. On Monday's edition of Larry King Live, New York Times reporter James Risen said that "under the rules at that time the Attorney General could authorize a warrantless physical search of a house. After the Ames case," he added, "Congress changed that and closed that loophole and so that now that kind of search couldn't be done under the law."

Responding to the White House and Attorney General's comments, Gore said, "The Attorney General is making a political defense of the President without even addressing the substantive legal questions that have so troubled millions of Americans in both political parties. There are...problems with the Attorney General's effort to focus attention on the past instead of the present Administration's behavior. [As] others have thoroughly documented, his charges are factually wrong. Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton/Gore Administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law."