Published: January 17 2006
Al Gore, the former vice-president, launched one of his strongest assaults on the administration of George W. Bush, accusing him of breaking the “law repeatedly and consistently” and calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s decision to authorise unlawful surveillance.
In a speech at the historic Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, Mr Gore accused Mr Bush of creating a constitutional crisis by his expansion of executive power. “He has brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in our constitution,” he said.
Mr Gore targeted the decision by the administration to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, to listen in on international telephone calls and read e-mails of US citizens suspected of communicating with al-Qaeda terrorists. Senate hearings on the issue are due to start next month. White House officials have aggressively defended the policy.
The hardline speech threatens to divide Democrats over how to respond to accusations that they are soft on terror. “While the president works to protect Americans from terrorists, Democrats deliver no solutions of their own, only diatribes laden with inaccuracies and anger,” said the Republican National Committee on Monday.
Mr Gore said a special counsel should “immediately be appointed by the attorney-general” to investigate whether the law was bypassed. He also said the Patriot Act, the anti-terror legislation passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, should be voted down without further safeguards, and he demanded that telecommunications companies “that have provided the government with access to private citizens without a proper warrant should cease and desist participation with the complicity in this”.
Constitutional concerns about the way the administration had prosecuted the “war on terror” formed the core of the speech. After accusing Congress of being “willing accomplices in the surrender of its power”, he called on them to reassert themselves to prevent “the hollowing out and degradation of American democracy”.