Scott McClellan 'throws up chaff' on Wiretapping Question!
He has to handle the tough questions. He faced lots of difficult questions today.
In particular he had a hard time managing all of the questions about the warrantless wiretapping by the NSA upon the direction of the President and approved by the Attorney General.
Especially the difficult attack on President Bush by former Vice-President Al Gore who has asserted that the President is breaking the law.
This is what McClellan had to say:
"MR. McCLELLAN: I reject that wholeheartedly, Helen. The legal justification has been spelled out by the Department of Justice.McClellan is well-briefed on the Republican Talking Points.
In terms of Al Gore's comments, I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds. It was the Clinton administration that used warrantless physical searches. An example is what they did in the case of Aldrich Ames. And it was the Deputy Attorney General under the Clinton administration that testified before Congress and said, "First, the Department of Justice believes and the case law supports that the President has inherent authority" -- inherent authority -- "to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General." This is testimony, public testimony before the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
I would also point out that a former associate Attorney General under the Clinton administration said that every President since FISA's passage has asserted that he retained inherent power to go beyond the Act's terms -- under President Clinton -- and he pointed to the Deputy Attorney General's comments that I just referenced. So -- "
But it just so happens that his assertion isn't true.
McClellan claims the Clinton Administration handled the law the same way as the Bush Administration. But the law was different at the time of the Ames case. As reported:
"...the Ames investigation took place before the 1995 FISA amendment requiring warrants for physical searches. In other words, in conducting these searches, the Clinton administration did not bypass FISA because FISA did not address physical searches. Further, there is ample evidence that the Clinton administration complied with the FISA requirements that did exist on wiretapping: U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who previously served on the FISA court, has noted the "key role" the court played in the Ames case to "authorize physical entries to plant eavesdropping devices"; and former deputy assistant attorney general Mark M. Richard established that "the Attorney General was asked to sign as many as nine certifications to the FISA court in support of applications for FISA surveillance" during the Ames investigation.
Photo of former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick
But that did NOT prove that Clinton broke the law. As Media Matters points out:
But "physical searches" are not the same as electronic surveillance and, as Gorelick's testimony made clear, were not restricted at that time by the Foreign Intelligence Authorization Act (FISA), which has since been amended to include them. The foreign intelligence activity that the Bush administration has argued it can conduct without warrants -- domestic wiretapping -- has for 27 years been governed by FISA, which specifically requires court orders. On the other hand, the foreign intelligence activity to which Gorelick was referring -- "physical searches" -- was not covered by FISA when she said that Clinton had the "inherent authority to conduct" them. Further, Gorelick testified that she supported legislation requiring FISA warrants for physical searches. Following the passage of such legislation in 1995, the Clinton administration no longer asserted that it had the authority to conduct warrantless physical searches. By contrast, the Bush administration has claimed that it is not bound by the corresponding FISA provision requiring warrants for domestic eavesdropping.McClellan is referring to testimony by then Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick who stated:
"At the outset, let me emphasize two very important points. First, the Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the President has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General.I am sorry Mr. McClellan. This is not an act of hypocrisy by Vice-President Al Gore. The Clinton Administration followed the laws as they were written. When the laws changed, their procedures changed.
Second, the Administration and the Attorney General support, in principle, legislation establishing judicial warrant procedures under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for physical searches undertaken for intelligence purposes. However, whether specific legislation on this subject is desirable for the practical benefits it might add to intelligence collection, or undesirable as too much of a restriction on the President’s authority to collect intelligence necessary for the national security, depends on how the legislation is crafted."
This Administration has chosen to place itself above the law. To violate laws, and declare laws non-applicable to them.
We are not victims of hypocrisy in America. We are victims of a President who believes himself to be above the laws. Terrorists do not have the power to destroy this nation which possesses a defence unrivaled across the globe. But Americans in high political office who show disrespect to the law, and who distort History to advance their agenda pose grave threats to our freedom!