Dover Bitch

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gonzales -- what a witness

DB continues to be slammed with work, but managed to catch some of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. It wasn't easy, though. Right from the get-go, the Attorney General was making a mockery of our legal traditions.

Other bloggers have captured the essence of the hearings, particularly the egregiousness of Gonzales' claim that the Constitution doesn't guarantee all citizens the right of Habeas Corpus. I never thought I would live to see the day when an Attorney General would say such a thing.

The highlights for this blogger were when Leahy let loose on Gonzales for shipping Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria to be tortured, and Sen. Feingold's entire dialog today.

But here's the first exchange between Leahy and Gonzales. This is the first of the hearing and it tells you all you need to know about the obfuscation that the Bush Administration embraces:

SEN. LEAHY: Does the president believe he has the inherent Constitutional authority to open Americans' mail without a warrant?

AG GONZALES: Sir, that... Now, you're asking me to get to an analysis, quite frankly, that the department has not done and what I would point you to is the Justice Jackson's analysis under Youngstown in terms of looking at the inherent authority of the president, looking at the inherent authority of Congress...

SEN LEAHY: But if you take...

AG GONZALES: ...and weighing those.

SEN LEAHY: If you take Youngstown, we laid out pretty clearly what the authority is following the Church Committee and FISA and everything else. Do you think the president has the authority under the AUMF, notwithstanding the requirements of the FISA Statute?

AG GONZALES: Sir, I'm not prepared to answer that question. I think for purposes of today's hearing, I think it's important for everyone to note that the pres... as far as I know... there is no ongoing physical searches of mail under the authorization...

SEN. LEAHY: So there hasn't been?

AG GONZALES: And there... to my knowledge, there hasn't been any kind of authorization to...

SEN. LEAHY: Would you know if there was?

AG GONZALES: I suspect that I would know, sir. Yes, sir.

SEN. LEAHY: Then why in heaven's name did the president feel he needed to issue this signing statement?

AG GONZALES: Sir, he issued that signing statement to preserve the authority we believe exists under FISA, under other statutes. So, when you've got the president signing a statute saying this is the only way you can engage in physical searches, the president wanted to preserve the authority you gave to him under the other statutes. That's the purpose of the signing statement.

Are we to believe that the Justice Department -- the same department that claimed the president had Constitutional and AUMF authority to tap phones -- looked at this statute, determined that it narrowed the authority Congress previously granted the president with regards to opening mail and recommended a signing statement without undertaking any analysis at all with regards to other sources of authority for the president?

And where did Gonzales get the idea that the president could "preserve" authority granted by Congress? How could he claim the president has the power to prevent a statute that says "this is the only way you can engage in physical searches" from superseding previous Congressional statutes? Unless he doesn't recognize Congress' authority to place those limits on the president. But they never did an analysis about that, right?

These signing statements are bullshit, anyway. But this tortured logic and evasiveness is just too much. And this is how the day got started.

It will take a lifetime to clean up the mess Bush has created in this country.

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