This is infuriating.
Feingold, who today flat out called the program illegal and who last March... went on to attack Gonzales for a speech he made in November, where he said that critics of the government's warrantless wiretapping program believed in a definition of freedom that was "superficial" and a "grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people."
Feingold took issue with that and asked who in the country actually believed that terrorists should not be wiretapped.
Gonzales said he knew that it wasn't Democrats and his real targets were blogs, where you can find people who don't see that the government is trying to protect them.
Unfortunately, this is the closest thing I can find to coverage of this hearing. Transcripts do not seem to be available. If anyone has the exact quote from Gonzales, please post it. I DO have the exact quote and context for his statement in November.
Some people will argue nothing could justify the government being able to intercept conversations like the ones the Program targets. Instead of seeing the government protecting the country, they see it as on the verge of stifling freedom.
But this view is shortsighted. Its definition of freedom – one utterly divorced from civic responsibility – is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people.
As Justice Robert Jackson remarked in the case Terminiello v. City of Chicago, “The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”
The central quote was decontextualized and passed around in the media. Of course, you can find crazy people on the Internets, but the people out there who "will argue nothing could justify the government being able to intercept conversations like the ones the Program tagets," and I have never, ever seen anyone make that argument, but they are clearly too far and inbetween to constitute "a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people."
Gonzales is almost Chomskesque in his careful use of language which simultaneously means many things and nothing. If you support the idea that the executive need not get court approval for domestic surveillance, what you hear when he says this, particularly given the lawsuit quote at the end, is that the people who are raising legal objections are a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people. But when brought to task about that comment he can argue that he wasn't talking about those people, he was talking about some other group of people, who are a straw man who exist largely as a figment of Rush Limbaugh's imagination.
Let me put this in plain language. There will always be a threat of terrorism. There has been a threat of terrorism for decades. It will continue for decades. No one alive today will ever see a time when the United States did not occaisonally get hit by terrorists.
If the executive has unfettered right to surveil and imprison anyone it suspects of terrorism, with absolutely no oversight whatsoever, then it is inevitable that these powers will be abused to deal with political opponents, under the very banner of "grave threats to the liberty and security" that Gonzales here waves at ghosts, and that, frankly, is a grave threat to the liberty and security of the United States. Making this plainly obvious observation is not tatamount to saying that the government shouldn't fight terrorism or that it shouldn't surveil Al'Queda. What we're saying is that you are setting extremely dangerous and stupid precidents that will come back to haunt this country. You need to have a process that ensures that you aren't engaged in crooked activity that is more substantive than "we've looked at it and we don't think we're doing anything wrong." If you were doing something wrong, why would you call yourself on it? How stupid do you think we are?
Alberto Gonzales on Bloggers