[JURIST] In response to mounting criticism of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Tuesday took time during his daily press briefing [official transcript] to react to the two lawsuits filed by civil rights organizations [JURIST report] Tuesday against the administration. Arguing that the lawsuits, which challenge the constitutionality of the surveillance program, were "frivolous," McClellan stated that the two suits did nothing to further protect the civil rights of American citizens. During his remarks, McClellan also targeted former vice president Al Gore in response to Gore's earlier harsh criticism of the administration's surveillance practices [JURIST report], arguing that the former vice president's "hypocrisy knows no bounds." McClellan noted that the Clinton administration used warrantless physical searches and that a deputy attorney general under the Clinton administration testified before Congress that the DOJ believes that the President has inherent authority "to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes". Gore reacted to the administration's criticisms and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' defense of the NSA program by saying that the response illustrates the need for a special counsel to review the program. In a statement [text], Gore said:
the Attorney General's attempt to cite a previous administration's activity as precedent for theirs -- even though factually wrong -- ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal.The Washington Post has more.
The issue, simply put, is that for more than four years, the executive branch has been wiretapping many thousands of American citizens without warrants in direct contradiction of American law. It is clearly wrong and disrespectful to the American people to allow a close political associate of the president to be in charge of reviewing serious charges against him.