Attorney General Gonzales defended the administration's decision to shift authority of its warrantless surveillance program to a secret court. Gonzales explains what happens next and said the country is "no less safe."
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Attorney General Gonzales, welcome to the program.
ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. Attorney General:
It's good to be with you.
Why did the administration change its policy regarding the operation of warrantless surveillance?
Well, after the attacks of Sept. 11, the president made a decision that we needed to do everything we could within the law and the Constitution to protect this country. He made the decision that we needed to engage in this kind of electronic surveillance on the enemy on a limited basis, exercising his authority under the Constitution.
And, about two years ago, we began working to see whether or not, was there another way to bring the program under the FISA court? That's something that's been discussed with the Congress for ever since the program has been disclosed.
We worked very hard at trying to find a way to have this tool available to the president, but also fit within the parameters of the FISA statutes. And it wasn't until the very moment that the judge approved the application that we were convinced that, in fact, we could achieve that goal.
I think this ought to disabuse people of the notion that this president would nilly-willy exercise his inherent power under the Constitution. He exercised his authority under the Constitution as an initial matter, because he felt it was necessary to protect this country.
We now have provided an alternative way to protect this country, and therefore he's made the decision it's no longer necessary for the president to exercise his inherent constitutional authority, that he can continue to protect this country under the parameters of the FISA statute.
And one of the things that's very, very important for the American people to understand is, based upon the advice of the director of national intelligence, based upon the advice of the National Security Agency, this country is no less safe today than we were under the terrorist surveillance program authorized by the president.
It is very important for the president to be comfortable, in pursuing this new route, to know that this country is no less safe. And that's the reason why the president made the decision. It was now an appropriate way to go forward under the FISA statute.