Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Clueless Gonzales

Now we know, to the Attorney General's knowledge, the illegal spying program has not led to the capture of even on Al Queda suspect, even though it's been going on for years.

and the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales says that he is reponsible for passing on pertinent intelligence to the President on this matter. So the answer is that this illegal program has produced no results.

Further, there is no oversight in the program.

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

General, how has this revelation damaged the program?

I'm almost confused by it but, I mean, it seems to presuppose that these very sophisticated Al Qaida folks didn't think we were intercepting their phone calls.

I mean, I'm a little confused. How did it damage this?

GONZALES: Well, Senator, I would first refer to the experts in the Intel Committee who are making that statement, first of all. I'm just the lawyer.

And so, when the director of the CIA says this should really damage our intel capabilities, I would defer to that statement. I think, based on my experience, it is true -- you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance.

But if they're not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget.


And you're amazed at some of the communications that exist. And so when you keep sticking it in their face that we're involved in some kind of surveillance, even if it's unclear in these stories, it can't help but make a difference, I think.

BIDEN: Well, I hope you and my distinguished friend from Alabama are right, that they're that stupid and naive because we're much better off if that's the case.

I go the impression from the work I've done in this area that they're pretty darn sophisticated; they pretty well know.

It's a little like when we talk about -- when I say you all haven't -- not you, personally -- the administration has done very little for rail security.

They've done virtually nothing and people say, oh, my Lord, don't tell them; don't tell them there's vulnerabilities in the rail system. They'll know to use terror. Don't tell them that that tunnel was built in 1860 and there's no lighting, no ventilation.

BIDEN: I mean, I hope they're that stupid.

GONZALES: Sir, I think you can be very, very smart and be careless.

BIDEN: Well, OK. But if that's the extent of the damage, then I hope we focus on some other things, too.

Look, I'd like to submit for the record a letter to the -- it's probably already been done -- to Senators Specter and Leahy from former Secretary Jamie Gorelick. She makes a very basic point. I don't want to debate at this time. She said the Aldrich Ames case is about physical search. FISA didn't cover physical searches, as my distinguished friend from Alabama knows. At the time they conducted the search, FISA did not cover physical searches.

And then she went on to say, "My testimony did not address whether there would be inherent authority to conduct physical search if FISA were extended to cover physical searches. After FISA was extended to cover physical searches, to my knowledge, FISA warrants were sought."

So, I mean, let's compare apples and apples and oranges and oranges.

Let me ask a few other basic questions, because for me, I have real doubts about the constitutionality, as others have raised here. I used to have a friend who used to say, you got to know how to know. You got to know how to know. And we don't know.

Now, you're telling me and the rest of us that the director of the CIA says we've been damaged. Well, the former director told us that we were be going to be greeted with open arms, that they had weapons of mass destruction. It was honest mistakes. I mean, for me to accept the assertion made by a single person is something I'd consider, but is not dispositive.

Let me ask you this question. Do you know -- and you may not -- do you know how many of these wiretaps and/or e-mail intercepts have resulted in anything?


BIDEN: Any criminal referral.

GONZALES: Without getting into specifics, Senator, I can say that the director of the FBI said this has been a very valuable program. And it has helped identify would-be terrorists here in the United States, it has helped identify individuals providing material support for terrorists.

General Hayden has said this has been a very successful program, that but for this program, we would not have discovered certain kinds of information.

General Hayden also said that this program has helped detect and prevent -- I think those were his words -- attacks both here and abroad.

These folks are the ones that are paid to make these kinds of assessments. I'm not.

BIDEN: Have we arrested those people? Have we arrested the people we've identified as terrorists in the United States?

GONZALES: When we can use our law enforcement tools to go after the bad guys, we do that.

BIDEN: No, that's not my question, General. You said that -- you cited the assertions made by Defense Department, by General Hayden, by the FBI that this has identified Al Qaida terrorists. Have we arrested them?

GONZALES: Senator, I'm not going to go into specific discussions about...

BIDEN: I'm not asking for specifics, with all due respect.

GONZALES: ... in terms of how that information has been used and the results of that information.

BIDEN: Well, I hope we arrested them, if you identified them. I mean, it kind of worries me because you all talk about how you identify these people, and I've not heard anything about anybody being arrested. I hope they're not just hanging out there like we had these other guys hanging out prior to 9/11. I don't think you'd make that mistake again.

Can I ask you again, how is this material that proves not to -- suspected Al Qaida terrorist calls from Abu Dhabi, American citizen in Selma, Alabama. Turns out that when you do the intercept the person on the other end from Abu Dhabi wasn't a terrorist -- understandable mistake -- and it turns out the person in Selma wasn't talking to a terrorist. What do you do with that conversation that's now been recorded?

GONZALES: What I can say, Senator, is there are minimization procedures in place. You and I had this conversation before about the minimization procedures that may exist with respect to this program.

BIDEN: That may exist? Either they do or they don't. Do they exist?

GONZALES: There are minimization procedures that do exist with this program. And they would govern what happens to that information.

BIDEN: Does anybody know what they are?

GONZALES: Yes, sir, the folks out at NSA who are actually administering this program.

BIDEN: Have they told anybody in the Congress? Have they told any court?

GONZALES: Sir, I don't know the answer to that question.

BIDEN: I guess maybe you all don't have the same problem I have. If, in fact, there are minimization procedures, and they are being adhered to, no problem. If, in fact, the people being intercepted are Al Qaeda folks, and they're talking to American citizens, no problem.

But how do we know? I mean, doesn't anybody get to look at this, ever? Doesn't a court, retrospectively get to look at it? Doesn't the royalty within the Senate get to look at it? You know, this two, four, or eight people. Doesn't somebody look at it?

Or, you know, the Cold War lasted 40 years. This war is likely to last 40 years. Is this for 40 years we have so sit here and assume that every president is, yes, well, we know old Charlie. He's a good man. We're sure they wouldn't do anything wrong.

And we know no one in the intelligence community would ever do anything wrong. We have a history of proving that never occurred. And we know nobody in the FBI will ever do anything wrong. That's clear. That never occurred.

I mean, is there someplace along the line that somebody other than an analyst who we don't know, but we know he's asserted to be an expert on Al Qaida, is there somebody other than that person who is ever going to know what happened?

And whether or not there is, the next president may be less scrupulous. Maybe he or she will be engaged in data mining.

GONZALES: Sir, as I indicated in my opening remarks, that of course, the inspector general out at NSA, he has the responsibility to ensure that the activities under this program are done in a way that's consistent with the president's authorization, including the minimization requirements.

BIDEN: OK. This reminds me of a Supreme Court hearing.

What goes into the president making his decision on reauthorization every 45 days? Does anybody come and say, Mr. President, look, we have done 2117 wire taps or 219. You've had 60 percent of them had some impact, or only 1 percent has an impact. And we think -- or is it automatic? What kinds of things does the president look at, other than we still have Al Qaida out there?

GONZALES: It's not automatic. As I also indicated in my opening statement, the president receives information from the intelligence community about the threat. The threat is carefully evaluated as to whether or not we believe Al Qaida continues to be a continuing threat to the United States of America.

BIDEN: So as long as it is the program, so that's the criteria, "is Al Qaida a threat," not "is the program working," but "is Al Qaida the threat"? Is that the criteria?

GONZALES: Well, of course not. If we don't have a tool, a lawful tool that's effective, why would we use it? We only use a tool if it's effective.

BIDEN: Thank you, General.

GONZALES: Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman, could I ask for a short break?

SPECTER: Granted.

GONZALES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



At 12:06 PM, Blogger Puma said...

I am starting to understand that these people are chosen for their positions solely on the basis of being able to neatly slither out of taking any responsibility whatsoever; particularly during public questioning. (I was going to say "weasel out of" but in deference to your own honorable comportment, thought it disrespectful.)


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