2006/02/07

Gonzales attempts to defend warrantless NSA spying

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales began his opening statements as to why the Bush Administration directed the National Security Agency to spy on perhaps thousands of American citizens. Republican Senator Arlen Specter expressed skepticism about the Administration's story, Specter told Gonzales that even the Supreme Court had ruled that "the president does not have a blank check." Lawyer and liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald explains in an interview why the NSA spying case is of bipartisan concern. "The reality is-is that the scandal is about whether or not we live under the rule of law and that is not a conservative or a liberal debate-that is an American value..."

In an oft-quoted segment, Gonzales maintains that well...yes, al Qaeda members are aware that they are under surveillance, "But if they're not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget." which is apparently meant to suggest that the American people will be tipping off al Qaeda if they talk to much about such things.

Local political analyst Dick Polman points out that Democrats and liberals are all over the place on the issue. There is no one "liberal position", with progressive blogs expressing astonishment that "There are no email blasts from Senate offices, no elected rep teams organized to fling quotes and talking points at the press, no bloggers coordinating fifty possible small tasks..." to Governor Tom Vilsack declaring that "If the president broke the law, that's unacceptable. But I think it's debateable whether he did". In any event, the Attorney General seems to find disarray among the opposition very convenient as the blog firedoglake notes that Gonzales doesn't seem terribly inclined to answer questions from Democrats, even though he appears to answer very readily when Republicans ask questions.

The Bush Administration, meawhile, has made it quite clear that it intends to come out of this looking good, at all costs:

"Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November."

" 'It's hardball all the way,' a senior GOP congressional aide said."

The blogger Digby finds it very highly likely that the Administration was and is spying on domestic political opponents.

UPDATE: This story was posted on PhillyIMC and picked up by the National IMC.

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