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The Homeland Security Act

Al Gore About the Homeland Security Act

Excerpt from a transcript of "CNN Larry King Live", aired November 19, 2002

CALLER: What do you think about the homeland security becoming a cabinet position?

A. GORE: Oh, I don't think it's a bad thing to make it a cabinet position. I think that moving the boxes around on the organizational chart has limited benefit, but I think in this case, it can bring some limited but real benefits. I would like to add one other thing on this. While making it a cabinet department is a good thing, and many other features of that bill are excellent, I am growing more and more concerned about the violations of individual privacy that are contained in the current draft.

KING: Like?

A. GORE: Well, they have a plan that this guy, Admiral Poindexter has been put in charge of in the Pentagon -- you know, he was the one in the Iran Contra business. It's called Total Information Awareness, and if carried out, this plan would empower the government to collect information on every citizen of the United States and keep it there, and then in the discretion of somebody in the administration, they could use it or not use it, presumably because they were simply focused on countering the terrorism threat.

But fear can cause people to make mistakes, and fear can cause great nations to make mistakes, and just yesterday, the news came out this morning of this secret court dramatically changing the standards for wiretapping American citizens, and giving the Justice Department the right to go in and use a much weaker standard to listen in on conversations. What in the world are they doing here?

KING: Couldn't they say -- I don't want to speak for them -- the fear is warranted?

A. GORE: Well, the fear -- the fear is warranted, but the remedy needs to be matched to the threat. And see, what is -- the objective of terrorists is to destroy our way of life. We should not give them part of their victory by destroying important parts of our own way of life. And a right to privacy is a part of every American's right. And this whole -- you know, for many years going back to George Orwell and before, there have been these warnings that the new technologies of communication and wiretapping and everything create the possibility of a Big Brother-type state, and we've always pushed that away and said, No, we want nothing like that in the U.S. We will cast our lot with free speech and openness and the rights of the individual.

And now, step by step, we're actually getting into a situation where some of the things they're contemplating would take us big steps down the road to a Big Brother-type approach. I think there ought to be a lot of resistance to this. I think it -- that part of it ought to be defeated overwhelmingly.

KING: Do you think it will?

A. GORE: Well, I don't know. I hope so. One reason I'm speaking out on it here is to try to do my part to add...

KING: So you vote against the whole, or...

A. GORE: If they kept that part of it in, I would vote against the whole darn thing. Yes, I would.