Dumb-ass statement of the week: 05 - 11 Feb '06

Alberto "yes it's okay to torture as long as nobody loses an eye" Gonzales sure came up with beaut of a stupid line. This one is so classic I'm surprised they didn't save it for King George the Pathetic himself. According to an entry posted by Joshua Holland at the Alternet web log, on 06 Feb, at a hearing, Gonzo Gonzales opined:

President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale.

No wonder the Amurcan gubmint can't learn the lessons of history . . . it's totally unclear on the entire concept of history to begin with.


Kinda like saying Nixon used the "dog ate my emails" defense.

We all know that dogs didn't exist in the 1970's, now don't we?

I may be wrong but I this is one of the statements that the Attorney General actually made:

This fact is amply borne out by history. This Nation has a long tradition of wartime
enemy surveillance - a tradition that can be traced to George Washington, who made frequent and effective use of secret intelligence. One source of Washington's intelligence was intercepted British mail. See Central Intelligence Agency, Intelligence in the War of Independence 31, 32 (1997). In fact, Washington himself proposed that one of his Generals "contrive a means of opening [British letters] without breaking the seals, take copies of the contents, and then let them go on." Id. at 32 ("From that point on, Washington was privy to British intelligence pouches between New York and Canada."). And for as long as electronic communications have existed, the United States has intercepted those communications during wartime, and done so, not surprisingly, without judicial warrants. In the Civil War, for example, telegraph wiretapping was common and provided important intelligence for both sides. In World War I, President Wilson authorized the military to intercept all telegraph, telephone, and cable communications into and out of the United States; he inferred the authority to do so from the Constitution and from a general congressional authorization to use military force that did not mention anything about such surveillance. See Exec. Order No. 2604 (Apr. 28, 1917). So too in World War II; the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt authorized the interception of all communications traffic into and out of the United States. The terrorist surveillance program, of course, is far more focused, since it involves the interception only of international communications that are linked to al Qaeda.

Perhaps he said what "some dude" on alterweb said, but I couldn't find it in the prepared statments. I didn't get a chance to go through the whole transcript so there may be hope for the award.

You can read it here:

http://judiciary.senate.gov/testimony.cfm?id=1727& wit_id=3936senate.gov>

From the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2006/02/06/AR2006020600931.htmlwashingtonpost.com>

GONZALES: Nor is this just the view of the courts. Presidents throughout our history has authorized the warrantless surveillance of the enemy during wartime, and they have done so in ways far more sweeping than the narrowly targeted terrorist surveillance program authorized by President Bush.

General Washington, for example, instructed his army to intercept letters between British operatives, copy them and allow those communications to go on their way.

President Lincoln used the warrantless wiretapping of telegraph messages during the Civil War to discern the movements and intentions of opposing troops.

GONZALES: President Wilson, in World War I, authorized the military to intercept each and every cable, telephone and telegraph communication going into or out of the United States.

During World War II, President Roosevelt instructed the government to use listening devices to learn the plans of spies in the United States. He also gave the military the authority to review, without warrant, all telecommunications, quote, "passing between the United States and any foreign country."

Later on the AG said this:

GONZALES: I gave in my opening statement, Senator, examples where President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance of the enemy on a far broader scale -- far broader -- without any kind of probable cause standard, all communications in and out of the country.

So smelly guy at Alterweb was correct; however, the AG's mistatement was not grounded in a misunderstanding of history. According to his testimony, three of the four presidents really did electronic surveillance. If his testimony is true, then all of it is surveillance.

You can be critical of the substance of the AG's testimony, but this criticism is really reaching for straws.

N.B. If anything, Washington wasn't President at the time of the surveillance because it was during the War for Independence.

This issue isn't about whether there should be warrantless electronic surveillance of US Citizens. FISA has procedures for that. It has procedures to be followed in wartime. This issue is about whether Presidents are entitled to set aside statutes they disagree with without obtaining judicial review on the statute's constitutionality.

Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt did not have existing statutes to prohibit what they did. President Bush does.

Since you beat me to the transcript, perhaps you can tell us whether Lincoln, Wilson or Roosevelt acted contrary to a standing Act of Congress.

Assuming you are the same Anon who posted to my journal, let me say that despite what you say, I think I have a more open mind than you. I accept the possibility that the Supreme Court may eventually find that the so-called "inherent authority" of CiC allows the President to cancel statutes and thus be legal. From what I can tell, you are unwilling to consider the possibility that the President oversteped his authority.

One additional question to you. Is there any case at all where the President, acting in his official capacity as Commander in Chief can act illegally? In other words is there some action that he could claim to be neccesary to the defense of this country, but would be a criminal act in your eyes? If so, what?