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Former U.S. attorney general says current wiretapping may be authorized by Congress

Photo by Brandy Blanton

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the 300 people in attendance at the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon June 18 that some of the wiretapping activity by the federal government currently in question may be authorized by Congress. The monthly event was held at the Marriott in Cool Springs.

Gonzales served in the Bush administration as the nation’s highest law enforcement official from February 2005 to September 2007. During much of Gonzales’ tenure, several facets of post-9/11 national security dominated headlines, including warrantless wiretapping and the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

“Some are suspicious of the power of the federal government,” Gonzales said. “And perhaps the abuse of that power.”

He said, despite “failure in our government,” and polls that reflect a virtual across-the-board dissatisfaction with Congress – approval ratings are currently a spectacularly dismal six percent – “on certain issues, we need government.”

While he said he would cull from federal government’s purview education, health care, marital relationships and parenting, he emphasized the importance of federal coordination pertaining to issues of national security.

Not only was the government “not available to connect the dots,” leading up to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, “we were not able to collect the dots,” he said.

“I am grateful the Obama administration continues to use many of the same [national security tools that the Bush administration installed],” he said.

Speaking to the chamber of a county that’s a Republican stronghold, Gonzales took a decidedly moderate line in discussing some of the controversies of President Obama and his administration. He said wiretapping, warrantless or otherwise, is likely being done under provisions provided Congress under the authority “granted by our elected officials.”

He said because such provisions concentrate “extraordinary power” in the executive branch, “we need checks and balances.”

Gonzales, whose father emigrated from Mexico with only a second-grade education, described diversity as “one of the great strengths of our country. But cautioned that part of providing adequate domestic safety includes tightening the country’s borders.

“We cannot have true security if we don’t secure our borders,” he said. “We need to know who is in this country and why; we cannot discount our vulnerability.”

Gonzales, who holds the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law at Belmont University’s College of Law, said immigration reform is critical to national security.

“But we are a long way to presenting a bill for the president to sign,” he said. “We have de facto amnesty to immigrants who are here illegally.”

Paying for a revised immigration policy will be feasible, he said, “when we finally have the courage to reduce government spending [elsewhere],” he said.

Fundamental to making progress on immigration reform, Gonzales said, Democrats and Republicans alike need to change their perspectives.

“Those on the Left need to know that not everything Republicans say is anti-immigrant,” he said. Likewise, those on the Right should understand that most immigrants are here “to find a better life, and most have young families.”

Gonzales also said that Obama’s “hands off” approach to governing does not absolve him of responsibility for the actions of those who work within the agencies of the U.S. government.

“Fair or not, that comes with the job of being president of the United States,” he said.

Near the end of his speech, he spoke briefly about his faith.

“I believe in God’s goodness,” he said. “And I see his grace every day.”

Posted on: 6/18/2013


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