According to President Bush’s radio address today, as White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales personally approved Bush’s program for warrantless domestic wiretaps. By circumventing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, those wiretaps violated federal law.
In a classified legal opinion, the administration argued the President had the power to order the warrantless search pursuant to his authority as commander-in-chief to wage war against al-Qaeda.
During his confirmation hearings for Attorney General in January 2005, Sen. Russ Feingold asked Gonzales about this precise issue:
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?
After trying to dodge the question for a time, Gonzales issued this denial:
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.
In fact, that was precisely the policy of the President.
Extended transcript of the Feingold/Gonzales exchange: Read more