Here is the text of Al Gore’s speech today in which he accuses President Bush of breaking the law in connection with the NSA intercept program, labels the president “a threat to the very structure of our government,” and calls for an investigation by a special counsel. We’ve discussed the legal issues associated with the NSA surveillance on a number of occasions (John and I see the matter a little differently). A speech by Al Gore, who has no claim to expertise in the law, need not prompt further discussion by me. Those looking for a point-by-point critique can find one at the Astute Blogger. And those curious about the Clinton-Gore administration’s view of the matter should check out Gateway Pundit.
When President Clinton had responsibility for keeping our country safe (and this was pre 9/11) he took an expansive view of the president’s authority to engage in domestic surveillance without a warrant. There’s no evidence that Al Gore complained, much less that he perceived a “threat to the very structure of our government.” It’s not surprising that, with no such responsibility any more, Gore sees civil libertarian concerns more clearly and gives them greater weight. But if you read his speech (and I’m not recommending that you do), you will find no serious consideration of the security side of the equation. Gore is content to say that foreign surveillance can occur under FISA, with no discussion of special situations in which the FISA procedures might prevent us from learning vital information.
Gore could have addressed these concerns and still ended up in the same place. Many liberals have pointed to various exceptions and special provisions of FISA, and tried to show how they strike the proper balance between security and civil liberties concerns. But Gore didn’t think he needed to get into any of that. Nor would you expect a demagogue to do so.
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