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Gonzales Refuses to Answer Whether Bush Can Authorize Illegal Covert Domestic Propaganda

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"Gonzales Refuses to Answer Whether Bush Can Authorize Illegal Covert Domestic Propaganda"

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Alberto Gonzales was asked today by Sen. Dianne Feinstein whether President Bush had the authority to engage in illegal covert propaganda within the United States. Gonzales stonewalled. Watch it:

(Quicktime streaming)

FEINSTEIN: Can the president suspend, in secret or otherwise, the application of Section 503 of the National Security Act, which states that no covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies or media? In other words, can he engage in otherwise illegal propaganda?

GONZALES: Senator, this will probably be my response to all of your questions of these kind of hypotheticals. Questions as to whether or not — can Congress pass a statute that is in tension with the President’s constitutional authority? Those are very, very difficult questions, and for me to answer those questions sort of off the cuff, I think would not be responsible.

Gonzales’ stonewalling is part of a trend. Top Bush officials have refused to publicly answer several critical questions about the warrantless domestic spying program, including whether the program has targeted journalists or political opponents.

Full transcript below:

FEINSTEIN: I just want to ask some others. If you don’t want to answer, then don’t answer them. Can the President suspend the application of the Posse Comitatus Act?

GONZALES: Of course, Senator, that is not what is at issue here. This is not about law enforcement, this is about foreign intelligence –

FEINSTEIN: I understand. I’m asking the questions. You choose not to answer it?

GONZALES: Yes, ma’am.

FEINSTEIN: Okay. Can the president suspend, in secret or otherwise, the application of Section 503 of the National Security Act, which states that no covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies or media? In other words, can he engage in otherwise illegal propaganda?

GONZALES: Senator, this will probably be my response to all of your questions of these kind of hypotheticals. Questions as to whether or not — can Congress pass a statute that is in tension with the President’s constitutional authority? Those are very, very difficult questions, and for me to answer those questions sort of off the cuff, I think would not be responsible. I think that, again —

FEINSTEIN: Okay, that’s fine. I don’t want to argue with you. All I’m trying to say is, this is a slippery slope. Once you do one, there are a whole series of actions that can be taken and I suspect the temptations to take them are very great. And we are either a nation that practices our rule of law or we’re not.

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