Attorney General Gonzales Refuses to Answer Questions From Senators, Fails to Address Concerns Surrounding Illegal NSA Spying on Americans

February 6, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON -- Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales failed to answer direct, yet simple questions from senators surrounding the warrantless surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency. The American Civil Liberties Union condemned that lack of transparency, noting that part of the role of the executive is to provide the legislative branch with ample information for proper oversight.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"Attorney General Gonzales is supposed to represent the interests of the American people, and not the president. Sadly, the ‘people’s lawyer’ today hid behind the veil of national security and failed to answer simple and legitimate questions from Senators on both sides of the aisle. These were basic questions that would not have compromised ongoing national security operations. This lack of transparency undermines the ability of Congress to conduct much-needed oversight on this controversial program.

"Ironically, the hearing began with a heated exchange as to whether the attorney general needed to be sworn in. Regardless of whether he is sworn in or not, it was imperative that Mr. Gonzales provide candid responses. Unfortunately, he did not. Indeed, it would appear that more has been stated publicly about this program by government officials at public events than in the halls of Congress today. The government has already conceded that Americans in America are having their calls and e-mails intercepted.

"Earlier, we had urged lawmakers to thoroughly question the attorney general. Sadly, he failed to answer the following simple questions: What laws the White House is referring to when the president has said the program is ‘legally right’; does the attorney general believe that the president, and not the Supreme Court, has the job of interpreting the law; how many Americans have had their conversations or e-mails monitored by the warrantless program; how much money has been wasted on inquiries into the private lives of innocent Americans; and if there are any limits to the broad powers that the president has claimed.

"The American people deserve to know the truth about this program. Oversight can be conducted without revealing state secrets. Congress needs to assert its proper role and fully investigate this matter. The attorney general must remember his commitment to the American people, and remember that in America, we are all bound by the rule of law."

To read more about the ACLU’s concerns with the warrantless NSA domestic spying program, go to: /nsaspying

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