Jan. 16, 2006—Washington Post
Transcript: Former Vice President Gore’s Speech on Constitutional Issues
Courtesy CQ Transcripts Wire
Monday, January 16, 2006; 5:39 PM
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT GORE DELIVERS REMARKS ON CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES
JANUARY 16, 2006
SPEAKER: AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT
GORE: Thank you very much.
I’d like to thank Michael Ostrolenk for that on-the-spot introduction, and I’d like to thank Michael and the other leaders of the Liberty Coalition for the wonderful work that they are doing to try to help Americans bridge many gaps that have sometimes unnecessarily divided us.
I want to thank them for co-sponsoring this event.
I want to thank Lisa Brown for her friendship to me and for her outstanding leadership of the American Constitution Society.
Tipper and I have long admired her work, and it’s a pleasure to work with her.
To all of the distinguished guests who are here, Senator Dianne Feinstein…
... others who are present (inaudible).
And I want to commiserate with Congressman Bob Barr, who was connected live when we walked out on the stage, but having had similar occurrences with live video feeds before, I know what can happen and what he must be feeling right now.
GORE: And I want to thank all of you for coming.
I’d like to start by saying that Congressman Bob Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years. But we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens, Democrats and Republicans alike, to express our shared concern that America’s Constitution is in grave danger.
In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.
As we begin this new year, the executive branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress precisely to prevent such abuses. It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored in our country.
And that is why many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences insofar as it is possible to do so and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.
It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all of our people.
And on this particular Martin Luther King Day it is especially important to recall for that for the last several years of his life Dr. King was illegally wiretapped, one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during that period.
GORE: The FBI privately labeled King the—and I quote—“the most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country” and vowed to—again, I quote—“take him off his pedestal.”
The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and tried to blackmail him into committing suicide. This campaign continued until Dr. King’s murder.
The discovery that the FBI conducted this long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King’s life was instrumental in helping to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.
And one result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, often called FISA, which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there was indeed a sufficient cause for the surveillance.
It included ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much speed as desired.
I voted for that law during my first term in Congress. And, for almost 30 years, the system has proven a valuable and workable means of affording a level of protection for American citizens while permitting foreign surveillance to continue whenever it is necessary.
And yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that, in spite of this long-settled law, the executive branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on—and I quote the report—“large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages and other Internet traffic inside the United States.”
GORE: The New York Times reported that the president decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program without search warrants or any new laws that would permit domestic intelligence collection.
During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the president seemed to go out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.
But, surprisingly, the president’s soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the president confirmed the story was true but in the next breath declared that he has no intention of stopping or bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.
At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA’s domestic surveillance. 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 insistently.
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.
Our founding fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men.
They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution, our system of checks and balances, was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law.
CSPAN: Video—Fmr. Vice Pres. Gore Speech on Executive Powers (1/16/2006)