The White House accused former Vice President Al Gore of hypocrisy Tuesday for his assertion that President George W. Bush broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval. "If Al Gore is going to be the voice of the Democrats on national security matters, we welcome it," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a swipe at the Democrat, who lost the 2000 election to Bush only after the Supreme Court intervened.
Gore, in a speech Monday, called for an independent investigation of the administration program that he says broke the law by listening in, without warrants on Americans suspected of talking with terrorists abroad.
Gore called the program, authorized by Bush, "a threat to the very structure of our government" and charged that the administration acted without congressional authority and made a "direct assault" on a federal court set up to authorize requests to eavesdrop on Americans.
Meanwhile, two civil liberties groups the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed federal lawsuits Tuesday seeking to block the eavesdropping program, which they called unconstitutional electronic surveillance of American citizens.
McClellan said the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches, and he cited an FBI search of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge. He said Clinton's deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, had testified before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants.
"I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds," McClellan said of Gore. Gore said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should name a special counsel to investigate the program, saying Gonzales had an "obvious conflict of interest" as a member of the Bush Cabinet as well as the nation's top law enforcement officer.
Gonzales, who has agreed to testify publicly at a Senate hearing on the program, defended the surveillance on cable televison news talk shows Monday night. "This program has been reviewed carefully by lawyers at the Department of Justice and other agencies," Gonzales said on Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes." "We firmly believe that this program is perfectly lawful. The president has the legal authority to authorize these kinds of programs", reports the AP. N.U.
An intense movement of NATO aircraft was reported at Poland's Rzeszow airfield near the Ukrainian border