Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gonzales Says NSA Criticism Misleading

This is incredible! From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the Bush administration's domestic spying program Tuesday and suggested that some critics and news reports have misled Americans about the breadth of the National Security Agency's surveillance.

Gonzales said the warrantless surveillance is critical to prevent another terrorist attack within the United States and falls within President Bush's constitutional authority and the powers granted by Congress immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales pauses as he takes the podium at Georgetown University Law School Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006, (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak).

At a Georgetown Law School Forum, Gonzales said the nation needs "to remember that ... it's imperative for national security reasons that we can detect reliably, immediately and without delay" any al-Qaida related communication entering or leaving the United States.

So Gonzales is parroting the same Bush White House talking points, claiming that the illegal NSA spying program was justified because Congress approved it--blah! Blah! Blah! Nothing new about what Gonzales is saying.

But now check this out:

As he spoke, more than a dozen students stood silently with their backs turned to the attorney general. Outside the classroom where Gonzales was to speak, a pair of protesters held up a sheet that said, "Don't torture the Constitution."

Members of the audience, some wearing black hoods, stand up and turn their backs on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, rear center, as he speaks at Georgetown University Law School Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006. Answering the Bush administration's critics, Gonzales said Tuesday that warrantless surveillance is critical to prevent another terrorist attack within the United States. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Gonzales cautioned his listeners about critics and journalists who have mischaracterized details about the program. "Unfortunately, they have caused concern over the potential breadth of what the President has actually authorized," he said.

The attorney general's appearance at the law school is part of a campaign by the Bush administration to overcome criticism, often by attempting to redefine the program.

Georgetown University students stand and turn their backs on U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales in protest as he speaks about domestic wiretapping in the United States during an appearance at the university's 'Georgetown National Law Forum' in Washington January 24, 2006. (Evan Sisley/Reuters)

Protesters stood up and turned their backs to Gonzales? They unfurled a banner saying, "Don't torture the Constitution?" Now that's news! What is more, these kids are Georgetown University students--probably one of the premier university and law school in the country. These kids are smart. They've read the Constitution--Mr. Gonzales, when was the last time you've read the Constitution? Perhaps you should listen to what these kids are saying, since they will grow up to be the next leaders of this country.

Georgetown University first year law student Laura Massie stands with her back turned in protest as U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales (rear) speaks about domestic wiretapping in the United States during an appearance at the university's 'Georgetown National Law Forum' in Washington January 24, 2006. Several other students joined Massie in the protest during Gonzales' speech. (Evan Sisley/Reuters)

What I find especially incredible is that the kids were able to perform this type of protest against Gonzales. One aspect that the Republican Party has been especially successful is in suppressing dissent at political functions, rallies, and speeches by administration officials. Every time President Bush goes to a political rally, or makes a speech at some function, the Republicans made sure that there is no protestors or dissent at those rallies. We've seen this before here,and here, and even here, where people were turned away from Bush campaign appearances, simply because those people may have worn suspiciously offensive clothing, or sported older Democratic party stickers on their cars. We are subjected to this false illusion of the country supporting President Bush, with flag waving, cheering crowds--even though we know that Bush's job performance poll ratings hover at around 38-40 percent. And now we get this one instance where an administration official has to confront such a protest--complete with visual images for us to see.

I don't think the Bush administration is going to be delivering any more speeches at universities anymore--with the exception perhaps of Bob Jones University.

One final postscript on this story. I wonder if the Democratic leaders in our Congress will take a cue from these bright, young, patriotic students, and possibly stand up and turn their own backs to President Bush when he makes his own State of the Union address? Hey--it is a dream, but it can also be a powerfully symbolic statement of defiance the Democrats can give to the Republicans. Of course, they're certainly not going to do that.

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