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From: Bart (129.171.32.13)
Subject:         Gore Assails Domestic Wiretapping Program
Date: January 16, 2006 at 11:09 am PST

Gore Assails Domestic Wiretapping Program

By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer 43 minutes ago

WASHINGTON _Former Vice President Al Gore asserted Monday that President Bush "repeatedly and persistently" broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant and called for a federal investigation of the practice.

Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr.'s national holiday, the man who lost the 2000 presidential election to Bush only after a ruling by the Supreme Court on a recount in Florida, called Bush's warrantless surveillance program "a threat to the very structure of our government." Gore charged that the program has ignored the checks and balances of the courts and Congress.

Gore said that Bush's actions — which the president has defended as indispensable in the war against terrorism — represented a "direct assault" on the special federal court that considers, and decides whether to authorize, administration requests to eavesdrop on Americans.

Gore said the concerns are especially important on King's birthday because the slain civil rights leader was among thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government.

King, as a foremost civil rights activist in the 1950s and 60s, had his telephone conversations wiretapped by the FBI, which kept a file on him.

Gore said that there is still much to learn about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program: "What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently," he maintained.

Bush has pointed to a congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that authorized him to use force in the fight against terrorism as allowing him to order the program. The program authorized eavesdropping of international phone calls and e-mails of people deemed a terror risk.

Gore was repeatedly interrupted by applause Monday as he spoke to the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and the Liberty Coalition, two organizations that expressed concern with the legality of the surveillance program.

Gore, also a former member of the Senate from Tennessee, proposed that a special counsel be appointed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate whether there have been violations of the law.

Referring to reports that private telecommunications companies have provided the Bush administration with access to private information on Americans, Gore said any company that did so should immediately end its complicity in the program.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.

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