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White House Disputes Gore on NSA Spying

pdf mise en ligne :23 01 2006 ( NEA say… n° 02 )

ASILE > Eurodac

2 Groups File Suit to Close Program

By Peter Baker

Washington Post Staff Writer

January 18, 2006

 

The White House fired back at critics of President Bush in unusually tough

terms yesterday as a pair of civil liberties organizations went to court in

an effort to shut down the administration's domestic spying program as

unconstitutional.

 

On a day that evoked the presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004 -- and

perhaps that of 2008 -- Bush's chief spokesman lashed out at former vice

president Al Gore for "hypocrisy" and at Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton

(D-N.Y.) for "out of bounds" criticism. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) joined

the fray by accusing Bush of breaking the law.

 

The barrage was the latest episode in the uproar sparked by last month's

disclosure that Bush authorized warrantless surveillance of telephone calls

and e-mail between Americans and people overseas suspected of links to al

Qaeda or other terrorist groups. Bush has defended the program as a vital

tool in a fast-moving battle against elusive enemies, and he has cited the

inherent powers of the presidency in circumventing a long-established secret

court that issues warrants in intelligence cases.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights

filed separate lawsuits yesterday asserting that Bush exceeded his authority

and violated Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable searches and

seizures by ordering the National Security Agency's surveillance.

 

"The current surveillance of Americans is a chilling assertion of

presidential power that has not been seen since the days of Richard Nixon,"

said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU's executive director.

 

The ACLU suit named eight other individuals and groups as fellow plaintiffs,

including the Council on American-Islamic Relations; Greenpeace; the

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; writers James Bamford,

Christopher Hitchens and Tara McKelvey; and scholars Larry Diamond of

Stanford University's Hoover Institution and Barnett R. Rubin of New York

University. The ACLU said that because of their work, the plaintiffs "have a

well-founded belief that their communications are being intercepted by the

NSA" but offered no evidence.

 

On Monday, Gore accused Bush of "breaking the law repeatedly and

insistently," and called for a special investigation. Gore, who lost the

presidency to Bush in 2000, was seconded yesterday by Kerry, who lost in

2004. "It is a clear violation of law," Kerry said on CNN.

 

"Al Gore's hypocrisy knows no bounds," Bush's press secretary, Scott

McClellan, responded. "If he is going to be the voice of the Democratic

Party on national security matters, we welcome it."

 

McClellan dismissed yesterday's court complaints as "frivolous lawsuits"

that "do nothing to help enhance civil liberties or protect the American

people."

 

The press secretary's charge of hypocrisy stems from warrantless searches

conducted in the Aldrich Ames spy case during the Clinton-Gore

administration and from comments by top Clinton aides asserting presidential

prerogative. But Bill Clinton later supported amending the Foreign

Intelligence Surveillance Act to require warrants for foreign intelligence

searches as well as wiretaps. Gore yesterday said McClellan's charges "are

factually wrong" and that "the Clinton-Gore administration complied fully

and completely with the terms of the law."

 

McClellan also returned fire against Hillary Clinton, who in a speech Monday

called the Bush administration "one of the worst" in history. She also

asserted that Republicans run the House as though it were a "plantation," in

which the opposition has no opportunity to advance contrary views.

 

McClellan called the comments "way out of line" and suggested that Clinton's

presidential ambitions were behind them.

 

Asked about Gore and Clinton attacking the same day, McClellan said, "We

know one tends to like or enjoy grabbing headlines. The other one sounds

like that the political season may be starting early."