No gaggle (yet) today, but Attorney General Alberto “Abu Al” Gonzales and General Michael Hayden, Principal Deputy Director for National Intelligence fought a rearguard action against the impeachment issues nipping at Chimpy’s heals.
Their first mistake was inviting Helen Thomas into their briefing.
Q I wanted to ask you a question. Do you think the government has the right to break the law?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Absolutely not. I don’t believe anyone is above the law.
Q You have stretched this resolution for war into giving you carte blanche to do anything you want to do.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, one might make that same argument in connection with detention of American citizens, which is far more intrusive than listening into a conversation. There may be some members of Congress who might say, we never —
Q That’s your interpretation. That isn’t Congress’ interpretation.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, I’m just giving you the analysis —
Q You’re never supposed to spy on Americans.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I’m just giving the analysis used by Justice O’Connor — and she said clearly and unmistakenly the Congress authorized the President of the United States to detain an American citizen, even though the authorization to use force never mentions the word “detention” —
Q — into wiretapping everybody and listening in on —
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: This is not about wiretapping everyone. This is a very concentrated, very limited program focused at gaining information about our enemy.
But Helen isn’t the only press corps member asking hard kweschins.
Q Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, do you expect your legal analysis to be tested in the courts?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I’m not going to, you know, try to guess as to what’s going to happen about that. We’re going to continue to try to educate the American people and the American Congress about what we’re doing and the basis — why we believe that the President has the authority to engage in this kind of conduct.
Q Because there are some very smart legal minds who clearly think a law has been broken here.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, I think that they may be making or offering up those opinions or assumptions based on very limited information. They don’t have all the information about the program. I think they probably don’t have the information about our legal analysis.
More hard kweschins.
Q If FISA didn’t work, why didn’t you seek a new statute that allowed something like this legally?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: That question was asked earlier. We’ve had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be — that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that — and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.
And still more.
Q And who determined that these targets were al Qaeda? Did you wiretap them?
GENERAL HAYDEN: The judgment is made by the operational work force at the National Security Agency using the information available to them at the time, and the standard that they apply — and it’s a two-person standard that must be signed off by a shift supervisor, and carefully recorded as to what created the operational imperative to cover any target, but particularly with regard to those inside the United States.
Q So a shift supervisor is now making decisions that a FISA judge would normally make? I just want to make sure I understand. Is that what you’re saying?