To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution
Refuses to say whether Bush has authorized spying on domestic calls, e-mails and letters or has approved warrentless searchs of Americans' homes and offices
DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST - Gonzales offered the legislative branch little deference yesterday, and certainly no apology for the administration's decision not to seek congressional approval for its surveillance program. "The short answer is that we didn't think we needed to, quite frankly," he declared in a typical exchange.
When did the administration decide it had the authority? "I'm not going to give an exact date," he said.
What does the administration do with the information it collects? "I can't talk about specifics."
Is the information used to obtain search warrants? "I am uncomfortable talking in great detail."
More interesting than what the attorney general said was what he would not say. Has President Bush, invoking his "inherent powers" under the Constitution, also authorized warrantless eavesdropping on domestic calls, opening of Americans' mail and e-mail, and searches of their homes and offices?
"I am not comfortable going down the road of saying yes or no as to what the president has or has not authorized," Gonzales, shifting frequently in his chair, informed the senators. . .
SEN. FEINGOLD: I - Judge Gonzales, let me ask a broader question. I'm asking you whether in general the president has the constitutional authority, does he at least in theory have the authority to authorize violations of the criminal law under duly enacted statutes simply because he's commander in chief? Does he - does he have that power?
MR. GONZALES: Senator, I - you - in my judgment, you phrase it sort of a hypothetical situation. I would have to know what - what is the - what is the national interest that the president may have to consider. What I'm saying is, it is impossible to me, based upon the question as you've presented it to me, to answer that question. I can say, is that there is a presumption of constitutionality with respect to any statute passed by Congress. I will take an oath to defend the statutes. And to the extent that there is a decision made to ignore a statute, I consider that a very significant decision, and one that I would personally be involved with, I commit to you on that, and one we will take with a great deal of care and seriousness.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, that sounds to me like the president still remains above the law.
MR. GONZALES: No, sir.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Again, you know, if this is something where - where it - you take a good look at it, you give a presumption that the president ought to follow the law, that - you know, that's - to me, that's not good enough under our system of government.
MR. GONZALES: Senator, if I might respond to that, the president is not above the law. Of course he's not above the law. But he has an obligation, too. He takes an oath as well. And if Congress passes a law that is unconstitutional, there is a practice and a tradition recognized by presidents of both parties that he may elect to decide not to enforce that law. Now, I think that that would be -
SEN. FEINGOLD: I recognize that, and I tried to make that distinction, Judge, between electing not to enforce as opposed to affirmatively telling people they can do certain things in contravention of the law.
MR. GONZALES: Senator, this president is not - I - it is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Finally, will you commit to notify Congress if the president makes this type of decision and not wait two years until a memo is leaked about it?
MR. GONZALES: I will to advise the Congress as soon as I reasonably can, yes, sir.