Gonzales Backs Away From Administrations Previous Attacks Over Eavesdropping

On multiple occasions leading up to the November elections, President Bush accused opponents of his domestic warrantless wiretap program of not wanting to listen to terrorist phone calls:

BUSH: In all these vital measures for fighting the war on terror, the Democrats just follow a simple philosophy: Just say no. When it comes to listening to the terrorists, what’s the Democrats’ answer? It’s, just say no. [10/30/06]

BUSH: If the people of the United States don’t think we ought to be listening in on the conversations of people who could do harm to the United States, then go ahead and vote for the Democrats. [10/4/06]

BUSH: The stakes in this election couldn’t be more clear. If you don’t think we should be listening in on the terrorist, then you ought to vote for the Democrats. If you want your government to continue listening in when al Qaeda planners are making phone calls into the United States, then you vote Republican. [10/3/06]

As Glenn Greenwald first noted, during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) confronted Attorney General Gonzales with these accusations. Gonzales denied they referred to elected officials, but instead to unnamed “blogs today”:

FEINGOLD: Do you know of anyone in this country, Democrat or Republican, in government or on the outside, who has argued that the United States government should not wiretap suspected terrorists?

GONZALES: Sure. I mean, if you look on the blogs today, there are all kinds of people who have very strong views about the ability of the government to surveil anyone for any reason. And so…

FEINGOLD: Do you know of anybody in government that has said that?

GONZALES: No. But my remarks — that’s not what I said. […]

FEINGOLD: […] Mr. Attorney General, as I said when Director Mueller was here, to me these comments are blatantly false. I think they do a disservice to the office of the attorney general. Falsely accusing the majority of this committee of opposing the wiretapping of terrorists is not going to be helpful to you, to the Justice Department, to Congress or to the American people.

GONZALES: Senator, I didn’t have you or this committee in mind when I made those comments.

[Ed. note: Since this post was published, we replaced a paraphrased transcript with the official, accurate transcript above.]