Here’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the Larry King Live show last night:
I would say that with respect to comments by the former vice president it’s my understanding that during the Clinton administration there was activity regarding the physical searches without warrants, Aldrich Ames as an example.
I can also say that it’s my understanding that the deputy attorney general testified before Congress that the president does have the inherent authority under the Constitution to engage in physical searches without a warrant and so those would certainly seem to be inconsistent with what the former vice president was saying today.
The issue with the Bush’s warrantless domestic wiretapping program is that it violates a federal criminal law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Despite what Gonzales is implying, the Clinton administration never violated FISA and never claimed they could violate FISA. Here’s why:
1. Prior to 1995, FISA did not cover physical searches. (With Clinton’s signature, the law was expanded to cover physical searches in 1995.) The search of Aldrich Ames home occurred in 1993. It did not violate FISA.
2. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick testified in 1994 that the President could conduct warrantless physical searches, before FISA required physical searches to be conducted pursuant to a warrant. Gorelick was arguing that the President could conduct warrantless physical searches in the absence of Congressional action. At no time did she suggest that, after Congress required the President to obtain a warrant, the executive branch could ignore the law, nor is there any evidence the Clinton administration failed to comply with FISA.
The fact that the Attorney General of the United States is resorting to such obvious deception shows that they have no real answers. The administration is getting desperate and grasping at straws.
The White House joins in the smear:
McClellan said the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches, and he cited an FBI search of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge. He said Clinton’s deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, had testified before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants.
“I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds,” McClellan said of Gore.