Sunday, June 10, 2007

No-Confidence Vote Monday, Needs to be just the beginning

On Monday the Senate will vote on a "no-confidence" resolution against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for lying about ... well, everything.

Of couse I want all Senators to vote "yes" but that's not nearly enough for the man who authorized illegal wiretapping of thousands maybe millions? of U.S. citizens. It is not enought for a man who has argued for illegal torture of anyone Emperor Bush deems an "enemy combatant." Nor is it enough for a many who has supported the suborning of our democracy.

For those and other reasons, tell your Senators and Representatives to Impeach Alberto Gonzales:

You know that the White House will be fighting this resolution. Just today Tony Snow came onto the Sunday morning talk shows to reiterate President Bush's support for the ineffectual and beleagured Attorney General. This was part of the White House campaign on Sunday to downplay and dismiss Senate plans to hold a no-confidence vote on the Attorney General. Snow said the outcome will not undermine President Bush's resolve to keep Alberto Gonzales at the Justice Department.

On Monday, the Senate is planning to debate a one-sentence measure that declares Gonzales "no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and of the American people." If it passes it will be a historic event. No Attorney General has ever had a vote of no-confidence against them. Many pundits will probably down play it, and Bush is sure to ignore it, but it will be one more step towards Gonzales's impeachment. Something I do think will happen.

Last month's dramatic testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey has prompted renewed attention and focus on the administration's warrantless domestic spying efforts.

Describing the shocking lengths that the White House went to in order to gain legal sanction for its surveillance program, Comey revealed that President Bush called then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's wife to seek permission for former chief of staff Andrew Card and then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to visit a debilitated and hospitalized Ashcroft at his bedside.

The White House orchestrated the hospital visit in March 2004, one day after a meeting between Vice President Dick Cheney and Comey in which Justice Department officials announced their staunch opposition to certifying the program. Cheney tried to skirt Comey's authority by seeking Ashcroft's approval, but Ashcroft demurred as well. The White House then reauthorized the spying program "without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality," prompting at least eight top Justice officials to threaten their resignation. Bush finally backed down, altering the program in order to get the Justice Department's sign-off. The saga over the White House's trevails to get legal approval underscores the serious questions that surround the program -- questions that remain largely unresolved to this day.ALBERTO

Alberto Gonzales has been caught lying too often to be allowed to remaind in office.

Testifying before Congress in January 2006, Gonzales claimed, "There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed." In light of Comey's dramatic retelling of a showdown that almost led to a mass resignation at the Justice Department in 2004, Gonzales's claim appears extremely difficult to square with the facts. Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Peter Swire explained that there are two possibilities that stem from the differing accounts. Either Comey and Gonzales were referring to the same program, in which case Gonzales lied under oath about the legal disagreements that surrounded the spying program, or Comey's objections applied to a different domestic wiretapping program, suggesting that the administration's spying efforts are broader than the public has been made aware. Gonzales appeared to resolve this dilemma, stating this week that he and Comey were referring to the same program. "Comey's testimony related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago," he said. If Gonzales is now telling the truth, that can only mean he failed to tell the truth in 2006.

In order to better understand the legal nature of the administration's warrantless spying program, Jameel Jaffer, a national security analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, urged Congress yesterday to subpoena documents relating to the program, including court orders and opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Members of a House Judiciary subcommittee yesterday threatened to issue such subpoenas after Steven Bradbury, a principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department's office of legal counsel, told the panel that the department would not turn over the documents because of their confidential nature. The New York Times writes that the confrontation over the documents "could set the stage for a constitutional showdown over the separation of powers." With respect to the separation of powers issue, Bradbury famously remarked in July 2006 during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that "the president is always right." Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) refused to back down over the committee's request for documents. "This committee created the FISA statute and the FISA court, yet the President believes we are not entitled to know what he or the court are doing." Nadler continued, "Many have begun to conclude that the shroud of secrecy thrown over these activities has less to do with protecting us from terrorism and more to do with protecting the Administration from having its lawbreaking exposed."

Citing a policy announced by Bush in Jan. 2007, Bradbury said yesterday that the warrantless wiretapping program hasn't been reauthorized for "several months," and "any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the program is now subject to the approval" of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But Bradbury's comments contradict Bush's explanation of his own policy. In January, Bush said, "Nothing has changed in the program except the court has said we've analyzed it and it's a legitimate way to protect the country." While details of the administration's actions remain "sketchy," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said earlier this year, "[The administration’s action] is not acceptable to me…simply because I can't trust what they say." Indeed, Bush has lost the public's trust. Prior to the revelation of the NSA spying program, Bush had assured the public in 2004 that "a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed." Bruce Fein, a legal veteran of the Reagan Justice Department, said that the administration's shroud of secrecy suggests they have more to hide. "Delphic remarks by the attorney general and other Bush Administration officials indicate that other foreign intelligence spying programs are ongoing and generally unknown by either the Congress or the American people," Fein said.

It is time for Gonzales to be gone.

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