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Alberto Gonzales Insists Spying On Americans Is Legal. Then Why Was He Too Chicken To Talk To Alan Colmes About It?

Reported by Ellen - January 17, 2006

Alberto Gonzales proved himself a coward last night on Hannity & Colmes when he spent a double segment defending the Bush Administration’s Spy-on-Americans program but only with questions from Sean Hannity. He also distorted the truth.

Gonzales parroted so many false Republican talking points, that he sounded like a poster child for the Media Matters expose, Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal.

For example:

Myth/falsehood #12:“We believe that the Congress ratified this program in connection with the authorization to use force.”

Myth/ Falsehood #4: “Under the Clinton Administration… the deputy attorney general testified before Congress that the president of the United States does have the inherent authority to engage in physical searches in order to collect foreign intelligence.”

Comment: See the excellent Media Matters article which debunks these claims.

Self-styled legal expert (and college drop-out) Sean Hannity had, of course, already concluded that the whole thing is perfectly legal. “This is not really domestic spying if we’re talking about international calls from terrorists or known terrorists or associates with terrorists into the United States, is it?” Hannity later justified it with the false claim that the president has “a sworn oath and duty to protect the American people.”

In fact, the president swears to protect and defend the Constitution, not the American people. But Gonzales conveniently went along with Hannity’s assertion. Gonzales said he will testify that the president “not only has the authority, he has the duty, Sean, to protect America against another attack.”

Near the end of the interview, Hannity asked if Gonzales played any specific role in the recommendation to the president “in determining the legality of this?”

Gonzales gave a legalese answer, suggesting he’s worried that he may be found to have broken the law, too. “The primary responsibility to provide advice to the executive branch with respect to legality on a particular activity relies (sic) within the Department of Justice and the Office of Legal Counsel and as the counselor to the president, I played a role in a wide variety of issues… but at the end of the day, the responsibility to determine for the executive branch what is lawful, what is not lawful, lies within the Department of Justice.”

Was Gonzales trying to pin the ultimate blame on his predecessor, John Ashcroft, who was the Attorney General at the time the spy program began? Or was Gonzales hinting that we wore two hats in the matter: 1) advising the president while acting as his legal counsel and 2) deciding whether that was lawful in Gonzales’ capacity as Attorney General? Perhaps our readers would like to weigh in.

Legal whiz Sean Hannity didn't seem to care either way.

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