Raw Story has the text of Gore’s speech, which the “liberal media” [sic] has largely ignored. Peter Daou notes at HuffPo:
Al Gore delivers a scathing indictment of Bush's power-grab. Flipping on the cable nets, CNN, MSNBC and FOX are covering 'breaking' news: an overturned tanker truck on a New York highway. This after a week of roadblock coverage of Bush's worn-out terror speeches.
Here’s the video from C-SPAN’s archive. Al Gore’s own website also has the speech’s text. (Interestingly enough, the banner of his site now reads “Al Gore 2008.” Are you trying to say something, Al? It was only in October, during a speech in Sweden, that Gore said: "I have absolutely no plans and no expectations of ever being a candidate again."
I wonder if he would still say that today.
Gore notes that King himself was himself the subject of domestic spying from an out-of-control administration:
It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.
On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.
The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.
This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.
The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance.
The GOP’s predictable response, from RNC Press Secretary Tracey Schmitt, is:
"Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America. While the President works to protect Americans from terrorists, Democrats deliver no solutions of their own, only diatribes laden with inaccuracies and anger."
Her disclaimer is “Paid for by the Republican National Committee,” which is quite instructive in its own right. Gore has anticipated the inevitable GOP smears, but they apparently didn’t isten to what he was saying:
The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.
Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.
Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.
But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.
UPDATE (01/17 at 10:22)
ThinkProgress demolishes the GOP’s Clinton/Gore-did-it-too talking points with some facts about FISA. As ThinkProgress observes:
The fact that the Attorney General of the United States is resorting to such obvious deception shows that they have no real answers. The administration is getting desperate and grasping at straws.
Cenk Uygur writes in “Al Gore for President” at HuffPo about his dissatisfaction with how the media portray detractors of the BushCo regime:
Fox News Channel and their mindless clones at CNN and MSNBC will now try to paint Al Gore as out of control and a fringe player. This is the same playbook they used against Howard Dean. If anyone aggressively questions this extremist administration, the conservative talk show hosts and their minions at the cable news outlets claim they are the ones that are extreme.
The media have fallen for it hook, line and sinker every time so far.
The media is so careful not to offend the crazy religious right. How about us? How about the over 50 million people who have voted for a Democrat in the last two presidential elections? Somehow the media think it is okay to marginalize ALL OF US.
It’s time to let them know, it is decidedly not okay. [emphasis added]
He sounds even more dismayed and disappointed with the so-called “liberal” media than I am.
UPDATE 2 (1/18 at 13:19)
Gore corrects critics of his speech on Monday here:
There are two problems with the Attorney General's effort to focus attention on the past instead of the present Administration's behavior. First, as others have thoroughly documented, his charges are factually wrong. Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton/Gore Administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law.
Second, the Attorney General's attempt to cite a previous administration's activity as precedent for theirs -- even though factually wrong -- ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal.
(Thanks to Kos for the tip.)
MediaMatters has the details on how the “Media repeated Gonzales’s false claim,” and NewsHounds examines Fox’s use of the deceptive White House talking points.
It isn’t only civil-libertarian Democrats who are concerned about Bush’s warrantless wiretaps. In addition to Bob Barr, there is also the group Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances. Their press release calling for hearings into the NSA surveillance is here. It includes this quote from David Keene, chair of the American Conservative Union:
This is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of safeguarding the fundamental freedoms of all Americans so that future administrations do not interpret our laws in ways that pose constitutional concerns.
(Again, thanks to Kos for the tip.)