USA Today has published an editorial by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in which he uses fear, innuendo and legal jargon to argue more privacy cannot keep Americans safe from terrorism. The editorial rationalizes the increased reliance on warrantless surveillance by the United States government. It is especially stunning, given the fact that Gonzales lied to Congress about the warrantless wiretapping program in 2006.

Gonzales was asked on February 6, 2006, whether James Comey, who is now the FBI director, and others at the Justice Department, had expressed concerns about NSA warrantless wiretapping. He claimed in testimony their concerns were related to another program and not the wiretapping program.

In 2007, then-FBI director Robert Mueller gave testimony to the House Judiciary Committee that suggested there was disagreement among high-level officials, including himself, when it came to approving key aspects of the illegal warrantless wiretapping program. Gonzales had told Congress under oath that there was no serious disagreement.

Gonzales’ perjury, which went unpunished, was part of a coverup of the crimes committed by officials involved in the warrantless wiretapping program. Now, nine years later, the USA Today is giving Gonzales a platform to spread more lies and further obfuscate what really happened during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Gonzales ominously insinuates in the final paragraph of his column that the USA Freedom Act may lead to a terrorist attack by a “disciple” of the Islamic State.

…ISIL is on the move around the world. Seemingly every week there is a reported story of a takedown of an ISIL disciple within our borders, chilling reminders of the evolving threat. Without access to the classified threat matrix or an appreciation of the strength of our intelligence capabilities, it is difficult for the American people to judge whether this new law strikes the appropriate balance between security and liberty. What we do know is that because of the USA Freedom Act, it is now more difficult for the government to gather certain kinds of information. If we must win the war for information in order to win the war against extremists, then we have to question whether Congress and the president achieved the right balance. Only time will tell.

Gonzales expresses concern about the fact that the government will be unable to “access bulk collection of metadata from third parties,” or the phone companies. He does not bother to mention that the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board concluded [PDF], “We are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack. And we believe that in only one instance over the past seven years has the program arguably contributed to the identification of an unknown terrorism suspect.” Or, that the Obama administration’s own NSA review group, staffed by former deputy CIA director Mike Morell, found the collection of phone records was “not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner” using other conventional methods [PDF].

Or, that a study by the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington, DC, concluded:

An in-depth analysis of 225 individuals recruited by al-Qaeda or a like-minded group or inspired by al-Qaeda’s ideology, and charged in the United States with an act of terrorism since 9/11, demonstrates that traditional investigative methods, such as the use of informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations, provided the initial impetus for investigations in the majority of cases, while the contribution of NSA’s bulk surveillance programs to these cases was minimal.


Gonzales writes warrantless searches are not “necessarily illegal.” He cites a federal judge’s ruling in Oakland, which found AT&T customers lacked standing to challenge the government’s surveillance of Internet traffic. What Gonzales omits is that the ruling did not end the “part of the case concerning telephone record collection and other mass surveillance”—which is exactly what Gonzales defends in his column.

The decision to not grant standing did not have much to do with whether it is legal or not to monitor citizens without the warrant as they use the Internet. The judge found they did not have enough information to be granted standing to challenge the government. Essentially, excessive secrecy was the decisive factor in the outcome for AT&T customers.

Gonzales’ argument clings to an outdated ruling in the Supreme Court, which held that “acquisition of personal information like telephone numbers already in the possession of third parties such as telecom carriers does not implicate the Fourth Amendment.”

Since Smith v. Maryland in 1979, the Supreme Court has avoided issuing a ruling on the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance.  Also, when the issue of warrantless surveillance was before the Supreme Court in Amnesty v. Clapper, Solicitor General Don Verrilli misled the court to get the case dismissed. He claimed that criminal defendants were being notified when the Justice Department used warrantless surveillance to identify them, which was not true.

Gonzales argues the “measures taken by the Bush administration (many of which have continued under the Obama administration) were necessary against the known threats and they were effective in protecting America.” He is not only defending warrantless wiretapping but also torture.

At one point, Gonzales argues that the Bush administration did not infringe upon anyone’s liberty:

Mindful of the extraordinary power being exercised, the NSA imposed minimization procedures to guard against the inadvertent collection of substantive information of innocent Americans. The general counsel and inspector general at the NSA were charged with providing heightened guidance to operators in order to protect against mistakes and abuse. There were routine training sessions and periodic evaluations and to ensure NSA operations remained within authorized limits. Finally,key congressional members were briefed repeatedly about our collection efforts.

The reality: in 2009, an unclassified report produced by the inspectors general of five agencies found the Bush administration was simply inserting “scary memos” or threat assessments to pressure officials into supporting reauthorization of the program every 45 days. Attorney General Ashcroft apparently had a “misimpression” of NSA activities that were approved. Bush lawyer and torture supporter, John Yoo, tried to circumvent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Justice Department was not appropriately notifying defendants of information collected against them.

Gonzales did not only lie to Congress about the nature of disagreements among top-level officials. He lied about how the FBI was using its powers on April 27, 2005, when he told senators as the Patriot Act was up for renewal that there had not “been one verified case of civil liberties abuse.”

Days before, according to the Washington Post, the FBI had sent Gonzales a report that indicated “agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee.” Acts included “unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect.” Gonzales was copied on each report, which stated rules or laws intended to protect civil liberties and privacy had been violated.

There is absolutely no reason why any media organization should be giving a platform to a disgraced former official like Gonzales, who committed crimes and engaged in coverups while they occupied their positions of power in government. It is shameful that the USA Today actively aided and abetted Gonzales’ spread of national security state propaganda on the phone records surveillance program as well as his role in the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Yet, it is characteristic of how much of the US press covers national security matters.

If the media organization’s editorial board is not reminding the public that a national security whistleblower still deserves prosecution, then it is giving space to disgraced officials whose careers and reputations depend upon citizens believing the lies they routinely tell.

Creative Commons Licensed Photo by the Latino Leaders Network 

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."


  1. disqus_tu7SEHpgGp
    June 8, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Let us see Gonzalez clear his name first before the World Court before we start giving the extremist pig a forum.

  2. jo6pac
    June 8, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Won’t happen in my life time because K still lives.

    I love this because I CAN EDIT.

  3. CloudyTheScribbler
    June 8, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    actually, while I agree that Gonzalez is indeed full of it, and probably a perjurer — these types perjure themselves like nothing, whether from the Bush or the Obama Administation (eg Clapper) with impunity — I think that the real problem with the USA Today and most MSM is their FAILURE to give an adequate voice to those who are in a great position to rebut these arguments, like Ellsberg, Snowden, and others. Let the public hear from representative voices of the major positions — and I think Gonzalez DOES typify and represent important officials who support the ongoing mass surveillance, and let the arguments be put side by side, as it were, and let people choose between the arguments of the likes of Gonzalez and the likes of Chomsky on a level playing field. The problem in my view is not so much the giving of a “platform” for those who are essentially justifying what the status quo is in fact and almost surely will be, whatever the laws supposedly say (trifling reforms actually) as in limiting the debate to “both” sides of the debate over the new law, rather than really letting those who represent the majority of world opinion have a fair share at a say.

    Over the years I have heard lots of “no free speech for fascists” whenever a podium was given to unsavory views often espoused by unsavory people. Yet the real problem, more subtle and complex, is that we pay the price for free debate in hearing fully from all the RW views and their craven pseudo-opposition, while any real progressive alternative is barely if ever heard from, in much of the MSM including I suspect USA Today

  4. June 8, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    The FBI is responsible for more terrorism plots in the United States than any other organization. More than al Qaeda, more than al Shabaab, more than the Islamic State, more than all of them combined.

    I’ve spent years pouring through the case files of terrorism prosecutions in the United States, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the FBI is much better at creating terrorists than it is at catching terrorists.

    Aaronson points out that the FBI hasn’t denied his reports:

    We used the court file to find out whether the defendants had any connections to international terrorist groups, whether an informant was used, and whether the informant played the role of an agent provocateur by providing the means and opportunity. And we submitted that to the FBI and we asked them to respond to our database. If they believed there were any errors, we asked them to tell us what they were and we’d go back and check and they never challenged any of our findings. Later, I used that data in a magazine article and later in my book, and on appearances on places like CBS and NPR, they were offered that opportunity again to say, “Trevor Aaronson’s findings are wrong.” And they’ve never come forward and said, “These are the problems with those findings.” So the data has since been used by groups like Human Rights Watchon its recent report on these types of sting operations. And so far, the FBI has never really responded to these charges that it’s really not catching terrorists so much as it’s catching mentally ill people that it can dress up as terrorists in these types of sting operations.

    And see this.

    Clinton and Bush’s top counter-terrorism czar – Richard Clarke – said:

    A lot of the cases after 9/11 were manufactured or enormously exaggerated and were announced with great trumpets by the attorney general and the FBI director so that we felt that they were doing something when, in fact, what they were doing was not helpful, not relevant, not needed.

    We noted in 2011:

    The Washington Post ran a story about one alleged threat entitled “Was it a terror sting or entrapment?“, showing that the U.S. government lent material support to the wanna-be terrorists, and put violent ideas in their heads

    Raw Story reports that the alleged terrorist group that is alleged to have planned to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower was non-violent before a government informant infiltrated the group and planted violent ideas in their heads

    PBS’ Frontline ran a special report focusing on the the alleged Al Qaeda plot in Lodi, California, which showed — based upon interviews with top law enforcement officials involved in the case — that the bust amounted to little more than entrapment and coerced and fabricated confessions from two men who, in fact, had nothing to do with the terrorist group

    There are numerous other instances of entrapment of peaceful or mentally incompetent people who are then arrested as “terrorists”. For example, the “mastermind” of the terrorism plot was a self-confessed “pothead” , another was a crackhead, and that they were all semi-retarded. And see this,this and this

    Many Marxists and Socialists say that we are at the cloacal end of capitalism. I think it’s very likely that they are correct. What seems more than certain, though, is that democracy is a steaming pile of crap.

  5. jo6pac
    June 8, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    little johns role model.

    If you’re from Calli, pure evil and Ronnie ray gunn was a the puppets sock puppet.

  6. VRSmiffSteen
    June 8, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    WHY hasn’t USA Today been sighted as a terrorist organization for harborring a war criminal ?? This assKlown is a crime against the nation. Why is he still allowed to speak ???

  7. Southern
    June 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Meanwhile James Woolsey has the audacity to cry wolf, the US needs to spend up big in order to prevent EMP threat.

    Keeping up imaginary threats has proven such a lucrative little earner.

  8. Иван
    June 10, 2015 at 12:09 am

    I don’t think democracy is a pile of crap. I think total absence of it is. I’m not a socialist but I came to a conclusion that democracy and capitalism or rather corporatism are incompatible.

  9. June 10, 2015 at 12:41 am

    Perhaps I should have placed ‘democracy’ in air quotes. However, democracies have an inexorable tendency/predisposition to invariably turn antidemocratic.

    DEMOCRACY AND THE IRON LAW OF OLIGARCHY. Excerpts from Robert Michels’ Political Parties. A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy (1915) PART SIX: SYNTHESIS: THE OLIGARCHICAL TENDENCIES OF ORGANISATION –

  10. Иван
    June 10, 2015 at 1:27 am

    I love the background. This should make for a pleasant read. So much for sleeping. Thanks man 🙂