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Our delightful attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, defended the administration's supposed need to invade privacy and totally disregard the 4th amendment today. He held a press conference today to go into more detail regarding the this violation of our rights. Here's an excerpt:
Q When was Congress first briefed --
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to talk about -- I'll let others talk about when Congress was first briefed. What I can say is, as the President indicated on Saturday, there have been numerous briefings with certain key members of Congress. Obviously, some members have come out since the revelations on Saturday, saying that they hadn't been briefed. This is a very classified program. It is probably the most classified program that exists in the United States government, because the tools are so valuable, and therefore, decisions were made to brief only key members of Congress. We have begun the process now of reaching out to other members of Congress. I met last night, for example, with Chairman Specter and other members of Congress to talk about the legal aspects of this program.
And so we are engaged in a dialogue now to talk with Congress, but also -- but we're still mindful of the fact that still -- this is still a very highly classified program, and there are still limits about what we can say today, even to certain members of Congress.
Q General, what's really compromised by the public knowledge of this program? Don't you assume that the other side thinks we're listening to them? I mean, come on.
GENERAL HAYDEN: The fact that this program has been successful is proof to me that what you claim to be an assumption is certainly not universal. The more we discuss it, the more we put it in the face of those who would do us harm, the more they will respond to this and protect their communications and make it more difficult for us to defend the nation.
Q Mr. Attorney General --
Q -- became public, have you seen any evidence in a change in the tactics or --
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: We're not going to comment on that kind of operational aspect.
Q You say this has really hurt the American people. Is that based only on your feeling about it, or is there some empirical evidence to back that up, even if you can't --
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I think the existence of this program, the confirmation of the -- I mean, the fact that this program exists, in my judgment, has compromised national security, as the President indicated on Saturday.
Q I'd like to ask you, what are the constitutional limits on this power that you see laid out in the statute and in your inherent constitutional war power? And what's to prevent you from just listening to everyone's conversation and trying to find the word "bomb," or something like that?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, that's a good question. This was a question that was raised in some of my discussions last night with members of Congress. The President has not authorized -- has not authorized blanket surveillance of communications here in the United States. He's been very clear about the kind of surveillance that we're going to engage in. And that surveillance is tied with our conflict with al Qaeda.
You know, we feel comfortable that this surveillance is consistent with requirements of the 4th Amendment. The touchstone of the 4th Amendment is reasonableness, and the Supreme Court has long held that there are exceptions to the warrant requirement in -- when special needs outside the law enforcement arena. And we think that that standard has been met here. When you're talking about communications involving al Qaeda, when you -- obviously there are significant privacy interests implicated here, but we think that those privacy interests have been addressed; when you think about the fact that this is an authorization that's ongoing, it's not a permanent authorization, it has to be reevaluated from time to time. There are additional safeguards that have been in place -- that have been imposed out at NSA, and we believe that it is a reasonable application of these authorities.
Q Mr. Attorney General, haven't you stretched --
Q -- adequate because of technological advances? Wouldn't you do the country a better service to address that issue and fix it, instead of doing a backdoor approach --
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: This is not a backdoor approach. We believe Congress has authorized this kind of surveillance. We have had discussions with Congress in the past -- certain members of Congress -- as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible.
Q If this is not backdoor, is this at least a judgment call? Can you see why other people would look at it and say, well, no, we don't see it that way?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I think some of the concern is because people had not been briefed; they don't understand the specifics of the program, they don't understand the strict safeguards within the program. And I haven't had a discussion -- an opportunity to have a discussion with them about our legal analysis. So, obviously, we're in that process now. Part of the reason for this press brief today is to have you help us educate the American people and the American Congress about what we're doing and the legal basis for what we're doing.
Q Al, you talk about the successes and the critical intercepts of the program. Have there also been cases in which after listening in or intercepting, you realize you had the wrong guy and you listened to what you shouldn't have?
GENERAL HAYDEN: That's why I mentioned earlier that the program is less intrusive. It deals only with international calls. The time period in which we would conduct our work is much shorter, in general, overall, than it would be under FISA. And one of the true purposes of this is to be very agile, as you described.
If this particular line of logic, this reasoning that took us to this place proves to be inaccurate, we move off of it right away.