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Gonzales Crushes Arguments Against NSA's International Surveillance
Power Line ^ | 1/24/06 | John Hinderaker

Posted on 01/24/2006 12:00:36 PM PST by frankjr

This morning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales participated in a debate at Georgetown University's law school on the NSA's international surveillance program. Gonzales did an excellent job of spelling out the reasons why the program is not only necessary, but legal. You can read Gonzales' prepared text here; what follows are some key excerpts:

"A word of caution here. This remains a highly classified program. It remains an important tool in protecting America. So my remarks today speak only to those activities confirmed publicly by the President, and not to other purported activities described in press reports. These press accounts are in almost every case, in one way or another, misinformed, confusing, or wrong."

No surprise there.

"I’ve noticed that through all of the noise on this topic, very few have asked that the terrorist surveillance program be stopped. The American people are, however, asking two important questions: Is this program necessary? And is it lawful? The answer to each is yes."

An important point: very few of the progam's liberal critics are actually willing to take responsibility for calling for the termination of the NSA international surveillance program. They know what would happen if the program were in fact terminated, and an attack ensued.

"The conflict against al Qaeda is, in fundamental respects, a war of information. We cannot build walls thick enough, fences high enough, or systems strong enough to keep our enemies out of our open and welcoming country. Instead, as the bipartisan 9/11 and WMD Commissions have urged, we must understand better who they are and what they’re doing – we have to collect more dots, if you will, before we can “connect the dots.” This program to surveil al Qaeda is a necessary weapon as we fight to detect and prevent another attack before it happens."

Didn't that "collect the dots" theme originate on the internet? I think so.

"[F]rom the outset, the Justice Department thoroughly examined this program against al Qaeda, and concluded that the President is acting within his power in authorizing it. These activities are lawful. The Justice Department is not alone in reaching that conclusion. Career lawyers at the NSA and the NSA’s Inspector General have been intimately involved in reviewing the program and ensuring its legality.

The terrorist surveillance program is firmly grounded in the President’s constitutional authorities. *** It has long been recognized that the President’s constitutional powers include the authority to conduct warrantless surveillance aimed at detecting and preventing armed attacks on the United States. Presidents have uniformly relied on their inherent power to gather foreign intelligence for reasons both diplomatic and military, and the federal courts have consistently upheld this longstanding practice.

If this is the case in ordinary times, it is even more so in the present circumstances of our armed conflict with al Qaeda and its allies."

As I've said many times, I think this is the key point that must be made again and again. It is supported by at least five federal appellate court decisions. How many such decisions are there on the other side? Zero. Gonzales continues:

"The President’s authority to take military action—including the use of communications intelligence targeted at the enemy—does not come merely from his inherent constitutional powers. It comes directly from Congress as well."

He goes on to discuss the Authorization for the Use of Military Force and the Hamdi decision. Most of that discussion is good, but he stumbles by referring to Justice Jackson's confused concurrence in the Youngstown steel mill seizure case. When I have time, I'm going to write a fuller explanation of why Jackson's tripartite theory is not just unhelpful, but wrong.

Gonzales supplies some historical perspective:

"[A]s long as electronic communications have existed, the United States has conducted surveillance of those communications during wartime—all without judicial warrant. In the Civil War, for example, telegraph wiretapping was common, and provided important intelligence for both sides. In World War I, President Wilson ordered the interception of all cable communications between the United States and Europe; he inferred the authority to do so from the Constitution and from a general congressional authorization to use military force that did not mention anything about such surveillance. So too in World War II; the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt authorized the interception of all communications traffic into and out of the United States. The terrorist surveillance program, of course, is far more focused, since it involves only the interception of international communications that are linked to al Qaeda or its allies."

Gonzales continues with the best discussion of FISA I've seen by an administration spokesman:

"Some contend that even if the President has constitutional authority to engage in the surveillance of our enemy in a time of war, that authority has been constrained by Congress with the passage in 1978 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. *** For purposes of this discussion, because I cannot discuss operational details, I'm going to assume here that intercepts of al Qaeda communications under the terrorist surveillance program fall within the definition of “electronic surveillance” in FISA."

Interesting. As I've said before, I assume that this must be true, or else the administration would make the point that FISA has no application to the international surveillance in question. Even saying that much, however, could tip the terrorists off as to what categories of communications are being intercepted and whether the NSA is using facilities located abroad or in the U.S., distinctions on which FISA's definition of "electronic surveillance" can turn.

"The FISA Court of Review, the special court of appeals charged with hearing appeals of decisions by the FISA court, stated in 2002 that, quote, “[w]e take for granted that the President does have that [inherent] authority” and, “assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power.” We do not have to decide whether, when we are at war and there is a vital need for the terrorist surveillance program, FISA unconstitutionally encroaches – or places an unconstitutional constraint upon – the President's Article II powers. We can avoid that tough question because Congress gave the President the Force Resolution, and that statute removes any possible tension between what Congress said in 1978 in FISA and the President's constitutional authority today."

I agree with that last point, but I also think it is vital to insist that Congress has no power to restrict the President's constitutional authority, any more than the President can detract from Congress's constitutional powers by issuing an executive order.

Gonzales makes several cogent points about FISA; I haven't seen this one before:

"You may have heard about the provision of FISA that allows the President to conduct warrantless surveillance for 15 days following a declaration of war. That provision shows that Congress knew that warrantless surveillance would be essential in wartime. But no one could reasonably suggest that all such critical military surveillance in a time of war would end after only 15 days.

Instead, the legislative history of this provision makes it clear that Congress elected NOT TO DECIDE how surveillance might need to be conducted in the event of a particular armed conflict. Congress expected that it would revisit the issue in light of events and likely would enact a special authorization during that 15-day period. That is exactly what happened three days after the attacks of 9/11, when Congress passed the Force Resolution, permitting the President to exercise “all necessary and appropriate” incidents of military force.

Thus, it is simply not the case that Congress in 1978 anticipated all the ways that the President might need to act in times of armed conflict to protect the United States. FISA, by its own terms, was not intended to be the last word on these critical issues."

Gonzales makes the familiar argument that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force constitutes an "authoriz[ation] by statute" that makes the current wartime surveillance an exception to FISA. He goes on to address the 72-hour emergency provision of FISA, on which leftists have put so much weight:

"Some have pointed to the provision in FISA that allows for so-called “emergency authorizations” of surveillance for 72 hours without a court order. There’s a serious misconception about these emergency authorizations. People should know that we do not approve emergency authorizations without knowing that we will receive court approval within 72 hours. FISA requires the Attorney General to determine IN ADVANCE that a FISA application for that particular intercept will be fully supported and will be approved by the court before an emergency authorization may be granted. That review process can take precious time.

Thus, to initiate surveillance under a FISA emergency authorization, it is not enough to rely on the best judgment of our intelligence officers alone. Those intelligence officers would have to get the sign-off of lawyers at the NSA that all provisions of FISA have been satisfied, then lawyers in the Department of Justice would have to be similarly satisfied, and finally as Attorney General, I would have to be satisfied that the search meets the requirements of FISA. And we would have to be prepared to follow up with a full FISA application within the 72 hours.

A typical FISA application involves a substantial process in its own right: The work of several lawyers; the preparation of a legal brief and supporting declarations; the approval of a Cabinet-level officer; a certification from the National Security Adviser, the Director of the FBI, or another designated Senate-confirmed officer; and, finally, of course, the approval of an Article III judge."

So the FISA "emergency" process would require days, at a minimum, and perhaps weeks, to complete; and it must be completed before surveillance can begin. Thinking about this reminded me of the fact that the NSA actually picked up two electronic communications on September 10, 2001, which countless liberal web sites have pointed to as evidence of malfeasance or worse on the part of the administration. Here is how General Michael Hayden described those two intercepts in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee:

"There is one other area in our pre-September 11th performance that has attracted a great deal of public attention. In the hours just prior to the attacks, NSA did obtain two pieces of information suggesting that individuals with terrorist connections believed something significant would happen on September 11th. This information did not specifically indicate an attack would take place on that day. It did not contain any details on the time, place, or nature of what might happen. It also contained no suggestion of airplanes being used as weapons. Because of the processing involved, we were unable to report the information until September 12th."

Now, consider this. What would happen if the President had not authorized the international surveillance program after September 11, and instead had relied solely on FISA, and the following events were to take place: the NSA obtains information that an al Qaeda operative overseas is planning a nuclear attack in conjunction with a cell inside the United States. The NSA decides to intercept all communications between the overseas al Qaeda operative and individuals located inside the U.S.; but first, it must obtain multiple layers of approval from lawyers and assemble all of the information needed to complete a FISA application. It begins that process, but the next day, while NSA is still working on getting the necessary approvals, a nuclear device levels much of Washington, D.C.

Suppose that disaster had happened a year ago. How do you think the surviving Democrats would have responded? Do you think they would have praised the administration for refusing to go outside the bounds of FISA's procedures? Or do you think they would have denounced President Bush and his administration as the most irresponsible, feckless and ineffective officials to control the executive branch since James Buchanan?

I think the latter. And you know what? They would have had a point.


TOPICS: Editorial; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: doj; fisa; gonzales; homelandsecurity; nsa; spying; terrorsurveillance
AG Gonzales sets the record straight.
1 posted on 01/24/2006 12:00:39 PM PST by frankjr
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To: frankjr

As I read this, ABC hourly news focused on the students who stood and turned their backs and others who put black hoods over their heads.

I wonder if they would feel the same way if they had been in the shadow of the WTC on 9/11.


2 posted on 01/24/2006 12:04:43 PM PST by CedarDave ("If I wanted to break the law - why was I briefing Congress?" -- W, 01/23/06)
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To: frankjr
These press accounts are in almost every case, in one way or another, misinformed, confusing, or wrong."

As are the democrats. Nicely done Al.

3 posted on 01/24/2006 12:06:18 PM PST by ReaganRevolution
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To: frankjr
C-SPAN this morning had Eric Lichtblau from The New York Slimes on their call-in program, supporting their position and raising alarmist scenarios...didn't watch it for very long but one caller theorized that the spying would be used against Democrats because Bush is so afraid that the Republicans will lose control of Congress and then he'd be impeached.

Moonbattery...it's all around us.

4 posted on 01/24/2006 12:11:34 PM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: frankjr

As all the people who screamed that Mr Gonzales would be a bad SCJ I hope they read every single word of this speech and the comments by Powerline - a former District Court clerk in St Louis - and ease up on the choices made by President Bush - they are not all stupid buddies, rather they are some darn smart people.


5 posted on 01/24/2006 1:17:52 PM PST by q_an_a
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To: frankjr

bump


6 posted on 01/24/2006 1:41:35 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: q_an_a

A huge Amen to that!


7 posted on 01/24/2006 1:49:26 PM PST by Greek
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To: frankjr

Bump


8 posted on 01/24/2006 1:57:18 PM PST by Kaslin
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To: frankjr
We cannot build walls thick enough, fences high enough, or systems strong enough to keep our enemies out of our open and welcoming country.

There's nothing quite like a false premise to weaken a case.

9 posted on 01/24/2006 2:27:01 PM PST by Carry_Okie (There are people in power who are truly evil.)
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To: frankjr

An important point: very few of the progam's liberal critics are actually willing to take responsibility for calling for the termination of the NSA international surveillance program. They know what would happen if the program were in fact terminated, and an attack ensued.



He summed up the liberal mind: irresponsible racist hags.

The irresponsible cares not for others, thus is a racist. This is the liberal today.


10 posted on 01/24/2006 2:30:44 PM PST by JudgemAll (Condemn me, make me naked and kill me, or be silent for ever on my gun ownership and law enforcement)
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To: Carry_Okie

I don't think that one line weakened his case. He used it for illustrative purposes. Are you proposing we build a dome over the entire U.S.? I'm all for it if you can get it to work...like the force field around the spaceship on Lost In Space.


11 posted on 01/24/2006 2:31:05 PM PST by frankjr
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To: frankjr

Nice post!


12 posted on 01/24/2006 2:38:56 PM PST by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: frankjr
With the testimony of AG Gonzalez and Gen. Hayden the RATZ on the Judiciary Committee should be left with their tails between their legs.
13 posted on 01/24/2006 2:41:17 PM PST by Mike Darancette (Condimaniac)
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To: Howlin; Miss Marple; Mo1; Dog Gone

Interesting read....


14 posted on 01/24/2006 2:44:03 PM PST by deport
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To: frankjr

You go Alberto! You rock!


15 posted on 01/24/2006 2:45:35 PM PST by lexington minuteman 1775
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To: q_an_a
As all the people who screamed that Mr Gonzales would be a bad SCJ

The RATZ have screamed for Gonzalez through the appointment processes leading up to Roberts, Meyers and Alito. Next time (if there is one) they'll probably get their wish. I not sure that the RATZ will ultimately be too pleased.

16 posted on 01/24/2006 2:46:38 PM PST by Mike Darancette (Condimaniac)
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To: Carry_Okie
We cannot build walls thick enough, fences high enough, or systems strong enough to keep our enemies out of our open and welcoming country.

Physically it maybe possible, but communication wise it would be tough to keep their communications outside the border.

17 posted on 01/24/2006 2:49:21 PM PST by deport
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To: frankjr

bookmark for later


18 posted on 01/24/2006 2:52:27 PM PST by TX Bluebonnet
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To: frankjr

bump!


19 posted on 01/24/2006 3:09:36 PM PST by jonno
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To: Verginius Rufus

one caller theorized that the spying would be used against Democrats because Bush is so afraid that the Republicans will lose control of Congress and then he'd be impeached.

Actually, to look at the evidence to date it is possible that one or more government officials may be in phone or email contact with one or more al Qaeda operatives outside the country. Thus there may be a surveillance record of it. It's a slim possibility.

A bigger possibility is that a MSM reporter or journalist may have been in contact with one or more al Qaeda operatives outside of the country. I recall that CNN had a sweetheart deal with Saddam Hussein when he was in power. So it's not like the MSM would be above the possibility.

The NSA may have evidence to some or all of the above. I shudder to think of the person's or company's reputation/credibility if even an allegation was made with alleged evidence. You know, sort of like what the MSM and certain politicians are doing to the President.

If the NSA does have evidence they'll be damn certain of it's accuracy before making a move on the U.S. collaborator. Even then it's possible that they would create a cover operation to remove the collaborator so as to not publicly expose the collaborator.

20 posted on 01/24/2006 3:16:03 PM PST by Zon (Honesty outlives the lie, spin and deception -- It always has -- It always will.)
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To: deport

Much ado about nothing. I assumed that all phonecalls from abroad were always screened by Echelon even prior to 9/11.

It appears to me that it's actually more targeted. Calls from suspicious sources or areas are being intercepted.

Good.

I'm not even sure wiretaps are being put on specific call recipients. I think it's being done midstream. If you get a call from al-Qaida, chances are that the call is being recorded, even if you were never on any government watch list prior to picking up the phone.


21 posted on 01/24/2006 4:02:46 PM PST by Dog Gone
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To: Carry_Okie
There's nothing quite like a false premise to weaken a case

The Magiot Line. Fredrick the Great. "He who defends everything defends nothing" There is NO way to defend everything. AG is EXACTLY right, "We cannot build walls thick enough, fences high enough, or systems strong enough to keep our enemies out of our open and welcoming country." We would have to become a Nazi style police state and even THEN we could not accomplish the above. Anyone who doesn't accept this reality is lying to themselves.

22 posted on 01/24/2006 4:56:21 PM PST by MNJohnnie (Is there a satire god who created Al Gore for the sole purpose of making us laugh?)
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To: Verginius Rufus
Moonbattery...it's all around us.

That should frighten us. There is no reason why the Moonbattery couldn't re-gain control of Congress - the country would certainly be in dire straights should that happen.

23 posted on 01/24/2006 5:30:59 PM PST by p23185 (Why isn't attempting to take down a sitting Pres & his Admin considered Sedition?)
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To: MNJohnnie
There is NO way to defend everything. AG is EXACTLY right, "We cannot build walls thick enough, fences high enough, or systems strong enough to keep our enemies out of our open and welcoming country."

No, he's not. Between adequate border control, deporting anyone who refuses to renounce Islamic preference for Sharia law over the Constitution, and empowering the organized militia, this country has the resources to greatly reduce the risk it faces without necessitating internal controls repugnant to liberty. As to effectiveness, the Bush Administration preference for uncontrolled borders is a farce by comparison. The sheer numbers of foreign nationals within this country invites eventual measures that will REQUIRE the police state measures you supposedly fear.

We would have to become a Nazi style police state and even THEN we could not accomplish the above.

The means necessary to track and distinguish "guest workers" will more resemble a police state than anything I have proposed, sirrah. My proposal relies principally upon free civilians, yours upon a government agency.

Anyone who doesn't accept this reality is lying to themselves.

Delusional, as usual.

24 posted on 01/24/2006 6:10:28 PM PST by Carry_Okie (There are people in power who are truly evil.)
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To: frankjr

This is all too lawyery...to much legalize about the cans and cannots...

When a country is at War, it is engaged in the Law of Survival. Note "Law of Survival"!

That means that the active authority is to:

1) Find the Enemy
2) Kill the Enemy
3) Capture the Enemy if he surrenders

Since the President is Commander in Chief and his job is to Find the Enemy, Constitutional Law does not apply to the Enemy.

The Enemy has no rights other than Die or Surrender!

When the Administration starts talking appropriate language for this situation, then maybe, the American Middle will demand that the leftist vacate to Iran or Saudi Arabia.


25 posted on 01/24/2006 6:27:19 PM PST by Prost1 (Sandy Berger can steal, Clinton can cheat, but Bush can't listen!)
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To: frankjr
Full Text Here:

http://fas.org/irp/news/2006/01/ag012406.html

26 posted on 01/25/2006 7:46:10 AM PST by Stultis (I don't worry about the war turning into "Vietnam" in Iraq; I worry about it doing so in Congress.)
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