Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Gonzales Lies to Smear Gore

As you now know, the right-wing came out firing after Al Gore's excellent speech on Monday, in which he rightly accused George W. Bush of breaking the law in spying on American citizens without the required warrants. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went on CNN's Larry King Live that very evening to say that the Clinton administration had committed the same crime.

"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," said Gonzales.

As you might expect, Gonzales was just making this up as he went along.

Think Progress reports that, no matter how Team Bush spins this, they can't get around the fact that what Bush has done with these illegal wiretaps is a direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a federal criminal law.

When you look under the FISA hood, you see that Gonzales was either a) lying or, b) in the embarrassing position of being an Attorney General who generally doesn't understand the law.

Why? FISA did not cover physical searches before 1995 so the one instance they're citing under the Clinton administration – the Ames case, which took place in 1993 – was entirely legal and within the administration's authority.

Immediately following Gonzales on King's show was James Risen, the New York Times reporter who broke the NSA domestic spying story, who almost instantly called Gonzales on his claim.

"Under the FISA -- under the rules at that time the attorney general could authorize a warrantless physical search of a house. After the Ames case, it's my understanding that Congress changed that and closed that loophole and so that now that kind of search couldn't be done under the law," said Risen.

Oh, by the way, this whole thing was the basis of little Scottie McClellan appearing at yesterday's White House press briefing and smearing Gore by saying "his hypocrisy knows no bounds." Somehow, I don't think the former vice president is going to sit by his phone waiting for the White House to call and apologize.

So there you have it.

If the GOP is going to continue their silly ploy of starting sentences with "Yeah, but Clinton..." every time they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they should at least make sure their lies can be sustained for at least a few hours.