Former VP issues call to defend Constitution, investigate lawbreaking president

WASHINGTON — In a Martin Luther King Day speech at Constitution Hall Jan. 16, Al Gore drew cheers as he called for appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate George W. Bush’s “strongman” abuses of power, including spying on the American people and other impeachable offenses.

“A special counsel should immediately be appointed,” said Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate in the stolen 2000 election. “Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of this special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by the warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the president.”

He was referring to Bush’s 2001 secret order that the National Security Agency (NSA) engage in widespread surveillance of law-abiding people without obtaining a warrant. Bush’s illegal spying, he added, “should be a political issue in any race, regardless of party, section of the country, house of Congress” in this year’s election.

In Baltimore, three leaders of the peace movement walking in the Martin Luther King Day parade echoed Gore’s charges. Max Obuszewski, Cindy Farquhar and Ellen Barfield told the World the NSA spied on them with the assistance of the Baltimore Police Intelligence Unit and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. A Baltimore City Council resolution approved overwhelmingly three years ago ordered Baltimore police not to cooperate with USA Patriot Act-sanctioned spying.

The three were arrested in October 2003 while protesting at the NSA complex at nearby Fort Meade. During their trial in August 2004, Farquhar, serving as her own attorney, questioned NSA Police Major Michael E. Talbert so persistently he let slip an eight-page NSA “action plan“ which revealed extensive spying on the Baltimore peace movement. It proved that protesters engaged in peaceful, constitutionally protected protest activities are the real target of Bush spying, not “terrorists.”

“This administration is shameless,” said Obuszewski, a leader of Baltimore Pledge of Resistance. “Bush is taunting us. He wants this NSA spying to go to the Supreme Court stacked with his appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito. He wants to get a ruling that this is ‘wartime’ and he can do as he wants.”

Barfield, leader of the Baltimore chapter of Veterans for Peace, said the aim of Bush spying “is intimidation.”

“They won’t succeed in intimidating us,” she said. “But there are other people out there who may be just as concerned about the war in Iraq as we are who will be intimidated. They have jobs to worry about.”

Gore pointed out that Bush admitted the NSA spying in a recent speech and “in the next breath declared that he has no intention of stopping or of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.”

Gore recalled that in the 1960s, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered spying and dirty tricks against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and hundreds of thousands of others protesting the war in Vietnam. “The FBI privately labeled King the ‘most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country’ and vowed to ‘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.”

Gore added, “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.”

In a recent poll, a majority of Americans, by a margin of 52 to 43 percent, say they want Congress to impeach Bush if he wiretapped U.S. citizens without a judge’s approval. The poll was conducted by Zogby International.

Gore cited Bush’s claim of “inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation … without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, without even informing their families that they have been imprisoned.”

Gore also denounced Bush’s claim that he has the authority to torture, abuse and humiliate detainees at CIA and Pentagon “black sites” at home and around the world. “Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by executive branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated,” he said. When Congress enacted the McCain Act to end the torture, Bush used a “signing statement” to proclaim his authority to defy the law under the doctrine of a “unitary executive” power, Gore charged.

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have unleashed a drive to undermine the Constitution’s system of checks and balances in the name of the war on terrorism, a danger compounded by Republican control of the House and Senate and, increasingly, the judiciary, Gore continued. “As a result of this unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the executive branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America’s democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.”

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